Rock-and-Roll’s leading lady, Joni Mitchell, performed to a near-capacity audience in the Coliseum Thursday night, reflecting a loss of innocence as she led her back-up band, the L.A. Express, through her traditional confessional ballads and material from her latest album, The Hissing of Summer Lawns.
Although Mitchell sang smoothly and played guitar with precision, much of her warmth and sparkling personality seemed to have gotten lost somewhere on the tour. Mitchell appeared onstage cluttered with jewelry and makeup, wearing a black sequined blouse and black trousers.
Without any introduction or even a hello, she began her set with “Help Me,”"For Love of Money,”and “Free Man in Paris.”She slowed the pace a bit on “For the Roses" and her voice began to resound in a mellow style. As Mitchell began to slow down, the audience began to get restless. She squeezed a “ssshhhhhhhhh” into the lines of “Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire,”strumming hard, and flashed her eyes harshly at the disrespectful audience. Taking to the piano, Mitchell sang “Shades of Scarlet Conquering” and “The Boho Dance,” two songs from her latest album. Both poems describe the woman in search of cinematic romance. In “Scarlet,” the woman becomes a slave to “sweeping ballroom gowns” and “blood-red fingernails,” hopeful that these superficialities will fill all her needs.
In “The Boho Dance,” the Woman is once again “Looking for some sweet inspiration,” but she deals with her search realistically. She recognizes her desire for romantic innuendos but does not cloud her needs with false ideals (“Not mine these glamour gowns”) as does Scarlet.
Mitchell, like all shaded Scarlets, “Likes to have things her way.”She likes (demands) undivided attention from her audience and she was not getting it. By the time she finished “The Boho Dance,” the miniscule percentage of people moving about had so disturbed Mitchell that she was ready to have a fit. She got up from the piano and probed: "I guess you people want to boogie, don’t you? …Well we’re gonna cut out half the show.” After settling down a bit, Mitchell explained how difficult it is to sing softly with so much “turmoil"going on in the audience.
Mitchell regained her composure very quickly and a bit of innocence as the band returned to the stage and she sang a couple of new songs not yet released. Her free spirit came through as she sang about a hitcher, "you just picked up a hitcher - a prisoner of the white lines on the freeway” and the “eagles soar for those higher ideals.”
She rounded out the show with “Just Like This Train,” "In France They Kiss on Main Street,”"Rainy Night House,” and “Don't Interrupt the Sorrow.” Her voice was deep and drooling on “The Jungle Line,” haunted by Robin Ford’s synthesizer arrangement and John Guerin’s drumming.
Joni Mitchell concluded her performance by showing the crowd a little more of herself. In another new song, “Talk to Me,”she sings "I talked too much again, I talk too free.” Despite a seeming loss of innocence, Joni Mitchell knows herself. She continues to grow in her art and so do her demands of it.
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