Joni Mitchell says she sings for "fortune and curtain calls".
At the Anaheim Convention Center Tuesday night, the gentle poetess had both - a full house and a five minute encore ovation.
It's been a long spring from the days of "Both Sides Now". One of the verses in the song which gave her a substantial popularity boost in the mid-60s proclaims, 'They shake their heads... They say I've changed." At Tuesday's concert she added, "Well, I have".
Joni Mitchell has always been an exciting stylist. Her poetic dream words spin harvest of rich wandering through introspective worlds.
But she is no longer the let's walk-through-the meadows-and-pick-flowers-Joni Mitchell- the purist folk singer so many of us remember.
Her lyrics record this just as her eyes reflect it gazing across the capacity crowd at Anaheim with a hard look.
It took Joni a long time to warm up to the audience. She walked out to a standing ovation wearing a low-cut 1940's red gown with glitter appliques.
Her voice was easy and strong.
She was accompanied by Tom Scott and the L.A. Express, an exceptional jazz group featuring the multi talented Scott on winds; Roger Kellaway, electric piano; Robben Ford, guitar ; Max Bennett (from Frank Zappa's Hot Rats band) on Fender bass; and John Guerin, drums.
It was the first time Miss Mitchell had chosen jazz backup as a vehicle for her music. It provided a beautiful complement. Scott accompanied her on a variety of winds raging from E-flat melody saxophone to recorder, flute, piccolo and also the melodica.
The concert was a celebration. A feast of good talent. A rare treat in an almost threadbare winter. After 45 minutes on stage, Joni Mitchell talked to the audience for the first time. "We'll be back after a short intermission."
She returned to solo on stage, accompanied by her acoustical guitar and launched into "Busy Bein' Free". It set the tone and added direction for the rest of the concert. It also added a much needed warmth from Joni Mitchell towards her audience.
She began to spin wonderful tales of laughter inside of laughter, went into "Big Yellow Taxi" and drew a standing ovation for the second time that night.
Her voice was the best I have ever heard it. It glided across "Down the Dark Ladder", "Both Sides Now" and into a modern-day myth about the secretive handclapping of the Arbutus Tree.
There was no secret about Joni Mitchell's success in Anaheim and the jazz accompaniment was just enough to fill in the dark hollows and mellow out the sound.
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