Joni Mitchell is beautiful.
It's that simple. She has a beautiful voice, although you can only judge its beauty intuitively. There is nothing else like its warmth, strength and fragility all tied up in one. She has a beautiful presence, rough hewn and sophisticated, again at the same time. But most of all, she has a beautiful mind.
In her Auditorium concert Wednesday night, she interrupted her rhythm of performance, although each song was following the preceding one like crystal-clear raindrops. But she chose to break in and tell a story, and all of a sudden, we were in her living room, all 3,982 plus (even the lighting booths were overflowing) in the audience.
The story wandered hither and yon, with many digressions. Along the way we learned about how houses sometimes get all chatchkaid up; we met a Japanese-Canadian artist who was fixing up his island home so that planes flying over would be able to enjoy his environmental art from the air; we heard about the ravages of Cabin Fever, the dread City Longing and virtue freaks, and we got a short lecture on how a Canadian relative of the manzanita tree grows in solid granite and has young and old branches co-existing side by side with no generation gap. One yeller in the crowed had had enough by the time the story ended in the usual Joni Mitchell manner; "So then this song came to me." But I for one could have listened to her talk for another hour. In fact, you'd probably have to wait around years to hear her say something boring.
Of course, she'd better not talk all the time, or else she wouldn't have time to live her fascinating life and write the priceless songs it inspires. Nor would she have time to give magnificent concerts like the one Wednesday.
Her 21 songs included most of her newly released album, "Court and Spark," and helping her out were most of the musicians who backed her on the album, who are now a group called Tom Scott and the L.A. Express.
The group started the concert with a blast on six solid instrumental numbers that completely won over the impatient audience. Then Joni came out and the whole crew collaborated on "This Flight Tonight" and five more songs. Tom Scott filled in on harmony vocal and supplied such touches as a strange little accordion-like reed instrument called the melodica on "You Turn Me On (I'm a Radio)," while the rest of the band cooked like chefs.
Along the way some one yelled that the sound was too loud (it wasn't), and Joni allowed that she thought Chicago audiences liked to boogie. A couple of numbers later someone yelled for "White Rabbit." Without batting an eye, Joni answered, "I'm getting slick, but I'm not that Slick." (Ed. note: Grace Slick sang the record of "White Rabbit.") See what I mean about that Mitchell mind?
After the intermission, Joni came out and did nine songs to only her acoustic guitar, Scott helping out with some soprano sax on the last two. The highlight of this section was "People's Parties," from the new album, which is a chilling little voyage into some private hells.
Another new gem is the eerie "Car on a Hill," simply, yet not so simply, about waiting for someone to arrive. And, of course, the closer had to be "Raised on Robbery," in which Joni becomes the feistiest prostitute ever to form a metaphor in the Western Hemisphere. One of the encores was her convincing version of the psychiatric jazz classic "Twisted."
For sheer entertainment, nourishment of the mind and warning of the heart, Joni Mitchell's concert is going to be hard to beat in 1974, with 11 months left for others to try.