While Joni Mitchell was energetically closing her January 29 concert at Constitution Hall with an upbeat version of her current hit, "Raised on Robbery," it became strikingly clear that Mitchell is capable of more versatile talents than even her long-time fans have seen.
Mitchell's music, largely autobiographical in nature, is taking a long-awaited upward swing. Most of her music is folkie and somewhat melancholy. One of her most common themes is love; ranging from romances past (and not quite forgotten) to ones she is hopeful of finding in the future.
She opened her 21-song show with "This Flight Tonight" from her "Blue" album. The audience welcomed her anxiously when she came on to join her excellent jazzy back-up band and opening act, Tom Scott and the L.A. Express. The vocals were as clear and harmonious as they've been on all six of her studio recorded LPs.
Mitchell's second tune (You Turn Me on I'm a Radio) perfectly portrays the haunting yet happy way she looks for her fleeting romances:
"If you're driving into town
With a Dark Cloud Above you
Dial in the number
Who's bound to love you
Oh Honey you turn me on
I'm a radio
I'm a country station
I'm a little bit corny"
Mitchell puts into poetic rhythm the emotions and situations of many women as she continues the song with:
"I know you don't like weak women
You get bored so quick
And you don't like strong women
'Cause they're hip to your tricks
But you know I come when you whistle
When you're loving and kind"
The audience applauded in spurts throughout "I'm a Radio" and Mitchell was laughing as if the attraction between she and the audience was mutual. After the intermission, Mitchell was prompted to comment, "You are a beautiful warm audience. You're feeding us a lot of energy up here and we sure appreciate it."
Mitchell, who wore two long beaded and backless evening gowns, looked very happy to be playing with a band. "Woodstock" was performed with more than adequate back-up by Tom Scott (on saxophone) and his band. The tune sounded much jazzier then as recorded on the "Ladies of the Canyon" LP. The band, especially piano, made the song come much more alive than it usually sounds.
After a half-hour intermission, Mitchell was greeted and thanked with a vase of flowers and some roses, one of which she tucked behind her ear. Audience reception peaked when Mitchell sang and clowned on stage to "Big Yellow Taxi", a song about the commercialization of life.
After rounds of applause and lit matches Mitchell did her first encore, "Blonde in the Bleachers", the true-sounding tale of how hard it is to "...hold the hand of a Rock N' Roll man very long. Or count on your plans with a Rock N' Roll man. Compete with the fans for your Rock N' Roll man for very long."
The back-up provided by Scott and his band was perfect. They never overpowered her; but were there to give added strength to previously recorded material. The band is relatively new as a unit, but its members have played with musicians like Frank Zappa and Roger McGuinn. The six-man band, which sounds like what Chicago should have been, play with Mitchell on her latest release, "Court and Spark."
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