"Blue" with Hannah Reimann at 54 Below in New York City, March 30, 2023, Review by Kevin Doheny for JoniMitchell.com
My favorite thing about Hannah Reimann's performance at 54 Below wasn't her lovely voice, exquisite piano playing, or more than adequate Dulcimer strumming, nor was it the killer band that accompanied her or the backup singers that gilded the lily. It was that everyone on that stage loved and respected the music of Joni Mitchell and you could literally feel Joni's magic coming from each performance.
Hannah opened the night with a beautiful version of the title track from 1974's "Court and Spark", followed by a faithful and funky version of Help Me, leading into the classic Free Man In Paris. I thought for a minute we were in for "Court and Spark" in it's entirety as well, but alas Hannah stepped forward, Dulcimer in hand and proceeded to begin the "Blue" portion of the evening. She explained how as a teenager she fell in love with the album but turned again to Joni and her music years later when as an adult she was dealing with being a caretaker for her Father who was in the throes of Dementia. She explained how Joni's music helped her during this time and when it came time to put together a show, Joni's music was a perfect fit.
I was very moved by this as, like so many of us, Joni's music has been there for me in so many ways. Opening with "All I Want" Blue let's you know that you are about to embark on a journey and in the capable hands of Hannah, and her band, it's safe to settle in and enjoy the ride. She referred to herself as a "hack" on the Dulcimer but I have to say that while in no way is her playing comparable to her wonderful piano skills (more on that later) but I quite enjoyed her Dulcimer style and look forward to it maturing with time!
Speaking of her piano skills, in the literal hands of Hannah Reimann the piano forward songs on "Blue" truly come to life. "My Old Man was lovely and she told the story of it's origins as a paean to Graham Nash. "Little Green" left me as mournful as ever and the accompanist was quite wonderful as well. "Carey" was rollicking and a lot of fun leading into the side A closer, "Blue" which really was a highlight for me- well played, well performed, it was extraordinary.
I love that she mentioned the flipping of the record before she played "California" a song she really had a wonderful time playing. "This Flight Tonight" soared (give me that one) leading into a heartbreaking version of "River" a song that gets a lot of traction lately but had a freshness to it last night.
Hannah then returned to the Dulcimer to give us a gorgeous version of "A Case of You" telling us first of its origins as a love letter of sorts to Leonard Cohen. Returning to the piano for a gorgeous version of "The Last Time I Saw Richard", Hannah closed out the "Blue" portion of the night in such stellar way.
We then pivot to feature more of the band that I will dub the 54 Below Express because they really had such a beautiful sound that sounded much like the LA Express' versions of these songs, only with their own flare. I can't underscore enough how wonderful this band sounded. Starting off with the "Miles of Aisles" version of "Rainy Night House" this portion of the evening left you hoping for a new show in the future where Hannah and the "54 Express" play that legendary live album in its entirety as well!
Kudos to Hannah for also nailing all of Joni's upper register notes all night long, including the fabulous riff in "Rainy Night House"! "Woodstock" came next, staying with the "Miles of Aisles" version and really cooking! Next was a surprise guest from Singer/Songwriter Keith Paine, who joined Hannah and the band for a tribute to David Crosby with an absolutely breathtaking version of CSNY's "Carry On" the harmonies were on point and the band featured several great solos and overall were tight and rocked it!
Winding down with a modified "Miles" version of "Both Sides Now" which was quite heartwarming. Hannah left us all emotional recounting how this song - which as she stated, is now a worldwide anthem - helped her through rough times and was also the genesis for an off Broadway show she hopes to remount soon.
With time for one more song, Hannah and the band launched into "Big Yellow Taxi" continuing with the "Miles of Ailes" theme ending the night in a perfect way. A night of great performances and most of all in celebration of the music of Joni Mitchell!
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Added to Library on March 31, 2023. (1177)
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