The lady, wrapped in white satin, sat poised on a piano bench in a wash of milky blue light.
The lady is Joni Mitchell, and she is lovely.
Blue is Joni's color and her mood. She radiates blue like the sky and the sea and, Thursday night, under the angelic proscenium at the Music Hall, Joni was all flowing hair and fluid movement and...blue.
Joni Mitchell does not necessarily play to an audience, a point quite clear to Thursday's sell-out. She is more self-indulgent than most musical artists, more particular with her band, more concerned that E-flat is exactly E-flat. And this is as it should be because, after all, it is her music.
Seeing Joni is different from hearing her records because, on stage, there is pain on her face, and despair, and startling wonder and, sometimes, happiness. It is remarkable to watch her empty her feelings like this and there is a sense that she is reluctant to lay it out, right here, right now. It reminds us of the lyric from "Both Sides Now," "To say I love you, right out loud."
She is at once bewildering and gratifying.
Her voice is an instrument, ranging from the sweet highs of "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio" to the deep wonder of "Woodstock." Her songs - there were many in the lengthy concert - were snuggly fitted to the arrangements of saxophonist Tom Scott and his tight, professional L.A. Express and included a chunk of Joni's superb album, "Court and Spark."
There were high spots (a little nervousness, too, but it added to her appeal) and Joni's acceptance of a deep red rose with a simple glowing smile was certainly one of them. There was "Big Yellow Taxi" and "For Free" and a rousing "Raised on Robbery" and encores of "Blond in the Bleachers" and "Twisted."
But for me it was over when Joni sang "Blue," giving of herself under the blue spotlights and over her choppy piano playing. For a blue queen, it was a fitting end.
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