She is unlike any other singer today. Joni Mitchell writes songs that are so much her own that only she can sing them. They are packed with words - the lines always burst with them. But somehow, they always are stitched so finely and imperceptibly together that they read perfectly, through her voice.
The audience on hand at Kleinhans Music Hall Monday reached out to her combination folk-chanteuse style with open arms. The singer, back here after a more than three-year hiatus (her 1972 tour did not bring her even close to us) played to a full audience.
The seats were gone in a flash more than three weeks ago. Outside before the concert, despite the cold, the snow, and the odds, people stood on street-corners near the theater hoping for spare tickets.
Baring the Soul
Ms. Mitchell sings of the personal, as if she is confident that the constant baring of the soul in popular song (certainly not commonly offered) will not be misinterpreted for self-indulgence. "Sometimes I think love is just mystical," she sings, and it is difficult to think of such a straightforward revelation in any but her own pieces.
The concert, in three parts, saw the singer perform at the close of the first set (her back-up band, Tom Scott and the L.A. Express, entertained in more superficial manner at the start.) She entered alone in the second half.
There were few calls for any particular Mitchell songs, since the singer hardly could be said to have left any listener unhappy. The familiar and the famous kept rolling off, in that mixture of emotional vibrato, strong, deep notes in the lower register, and the high-high ones that distinguish her voice from the rest.
She sang This Flight Tonight, A Case Of You, ("Oh, I could drink a case of you, darlin/And I would still be on my feet") and Blue from her BLUE Album, People's Parties, Free Man In Paris, The Same Situation, ("Send me somebody/Who's strong and somewhat sincere ...") and Just Like This Train from her newest album, COURT AND SPARK.
Stretching back to the past, she did her Woodstock, For Free, and, to finish, Clouds, which Judy Collins once made into an AM radio hit.
In between were other loving numbers, and a bit of patter from the singer. She talked about her one-time disenchantment with performance, followed by a trek into the woods, release in nature, and suddenly, from a little cabin, the hearing of the faint sound of clapping.
A Magical Peace
It was only the rustling of the arbutus tree, but she could hear more.
Now Ms. Mitchell is back, as if having thrown off the "rock star" image. She is graceful and soft on the stage, but the kind of peace she exudes is magical, star-like.
She calls for old lovers, for memories, and they are resurrected in a mixture of meter and sound which make a singular musical poetry. The Buffalo audience gave her flowers - lots of roses, particularly - for her songs.
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