She has a reputation for being condescending and arrogant, for reprimanding the audience, or even leaving the stage if she feels that a crowd is being insufficiently attentive.
Joni Mitchell demonstrated Tuesday night at Blossom Music Center that she apparently has matured beyond all that. Although she still totally lacks direct rapport with the audience - she hardly spoke at all during her set - she's **oly poised now, and has approached the presentation of her set with an ear for the demands of an audience. So she comes across much better than she has in the past.
For instance, she musically attacks that audience at the onset with a highly rocked-up version of possibly her best known tune, "Big Yellow Taxi." Very smart. She has the crowd with her right off and forestalls shouts of "Big Yellow Taxi" in the middle of her more obscure jazz-style material.
The first segment of her set included several of her other hits and some of her more accessible tunes. She played electric guitar and her five-piece band provided dense, high energy arrangements.
After satisfying the audience's taste for the familiar, she put her guitar aside and launched into some of her more ambitious material, including some from her latest album, "Mingus," which was practically a collaboration between her and the late jazz musician Charles Mingus.
Here her backup band of jazz musicians really shone, and she gave each of them ample opportunity to show what he could do by way of solo spots.
As a jazz singer, she is adequate, although her limitations are obvious. Her range seems greater than it is because she likes to jump with intervals and grope for notes, and occasionally her voice is lacking in resonance, although she seems to be gaining vocal richness.
What is interesting about Ms. Mitchell is her willingness to experiment and to stretch herself.
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Added to Library on May 3, 2002. (5145)
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