One of the most anticipated acts to play at Woodstock, Janis was completely overwhelmed by the size of the audience. As a result, Janis spent most of the day backstage getting fairly ripped, and consequently was not in the best shape by the time she took the stage at 2:00 am on Sunday morning. Janis and her Kozmic cronies opened with a cover of Eddie Floyd’s “Raise Your Hand,” a suitably up-tempo stomp that showcased the new sound full-bore. Janis worked the groove hard, attempting to establish a rapport with the vast audience. A tune from her forthcoming album followed with Nick Gravenites’ “As Good As You’ve Been To This World,” after which Janis took the mood down a notch for an excellent rendition of the recent Bee Gees’ hit “To Love Somebody,” which would also be on her new album.
Taking it into familiar (to the Woodstock audience) territory for the first time in the set, Janis gave the crowd a soothing rendition of George Gershwin’s “Summertime,” which had been an FM radio staple following its release on the 1968 Big Brother album Cheap Thrills. With the crowd now in her corner, Janis cranked up the energy once again with “Try (Just A Little Bit Harder),” which would become the biggest hit off her forthcoming album. A stunning rendition of the ballad “Kozmic Blues” (again from the new album) followed and was probably the best-received of the new tunes that dominated the set.
Looking to have some fun, Janis turned the microphone over to her tenor sax man Snooky Flowers, who showed what The Kozmic Blues Band could really do in a stomping rendition of Otis Redding’s “Can’t Turn You Loose.” Snooky and Janis flailed about the stage ecstatically, with Janis seemingly happy with the proceedings at last. This paved the way for the final number of the main set, a rendition of Nick Gravenites’ heartrending “Work Me, Lord.” This featured a breakdown section near the end where Janis wailed unaccompanied into the night, giving of herself until her already-brittle voice finally gave out.
Coaxed back onto the stage by a rapturous response from the crowd, Janis closed her Woodstock performance with a pair of tunes from the Cheap Thrills album. First up was “Piece Of My Heart,” which had been Janis’ biggest hit single to date and was rearranged here into an almost unrecognizable up-tempo groove. The set closed with Janis’ classic arrangement of Big Mama Thornton’s “Ball And Chain,” during which an impassioned Pearl left everything she had on that stage with another tormented, unaccompanied climax.