Joni Mitchell is a nightingale.
In her Hawaii conert depbut Sunday night before a Waikiki Shell audience of about 5,000, the thrush soared into folk country, receiving the hearty approval of the crowd.
She earned a standing ovation, tossing in a couple of encores that reflected her casual, gentle and engaging vocal style.
I DIG HER. She is a remarkable poetess with a substantial repertoire.
Her stumbling block, however, is that much of what she programs begins to sound the same, despite a mixed bag of self-accompaniment, ranging from acoustic guitar to piano to dulcimer, a stringed instrument which she plays like a steel guitar resting on her lap.
It seemed to be an overlong concert, simply because the problem of sameness-in-sound marked singer Jackson Browne's opening set. He, too, switches from guitar to piano, but his folk constructions, like Miss Mitchell's, are structurally similar.
Miss Mitchell's first ditty was an appropriate "This Flight Tonight," as the bird with flowing blonde hair and clear blue eyes began to offer her fistful of the wistful.
SHE OFTEN preludes a number with a casual observation. She calls, for example, her "Cold Blue steel and Sweet Fire" a "morbid little song." But why not? Its theme is drugs and junkies and death.
"Big Yellow Taxi," written after a previous visit here, is her best-known hit, and a lament about the loss of paradise. Or, in her words: "I wish I got here before the pink ticky-tacky got up, you know," referring to Waikiki growth.
And then there's the anecdote about vacationing in Greece with freshly-laundered blue jeans with the creases neatly in place. Miss Mitchell is a dandy raconteur when she wants to be. The song that follows is about a gent she met, "Carey."
I can't say on which she comes off best: she's a nimble guitarist, a deft pianist, and a remarkable dulcimerist. At the keyboards, however, Miss Mitchell had some difficulty with two songs - she quit the midst of them.
Naturally, she took the lid off her "Both Sides Now" composition, which best depicts her affinity with lyricism and images. And she's also an expert in crowd rapport, generating a hum-a-long on "Oh, Honey, You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio."
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