A concert by Joni Mitchell must be like married life with someone with that same degree of femininity. One has to urge her through it, but after 40 years one supposes it was all worth it.
Her concert at Symphony Hall this weekend sold out with an extra 170 seated on camp chairs on stage, started 18 minutes late - inexplicable for a single performer.
The first set, in which she was dressed in an unattractive flowered black kimono, blonde hair falling to the rim of her guitar, light touching her forehead, nose, cheekbones lovely, lasted precisely 30 minutes. It was followed by a 30 minute intermission.
That was followed by a second set of a whopping 45 minutes, in which she was dressed in the same long green velvet gown she wore last July in Newport. (Well, it's nice.)
One praises her for changing clothes.
But the audience was young and dedicated to the great music she writes and, although not unanimously sympathetic to the biggest wall flower outside Miss Primm's Dancing Class, at least understandable.
Always nicely nervous before an audience, Miss Mitchell now has the aplomb to realize a song isn't working halfway through and to stop it. She did this twice during the program. And she still heaves a sigh of relief when the song does go over.
We heard how it is on a Chelsea Morning, and the statement, "I don't know love at all" genuinely interrupted by a mental block caused by flash bulbs: "Anybody know the words to that song? Give me a couple of minutes. No, sing with me, to get me through it." We did, and then heard "Rainy Night House", and then a song she wrote for The Arrangement movie, which was correctly rejected ("You could have been more than a name on the 33rd floor"), a song about the "ex-cat" and Tom Rush's "Circle Game" which sounded almost giddy among all this rain-cat-loneliness verse.
"Last weekend I went to Hawaii. I arrived at night and looked out my hotel window next morning and saw big Sugar Loaf all green and lush, and white birds flying all around and a big parking lot right in the middle. So I wrote this new song, "Big Yellow Taxi". (They put all the trees in a tree museum, And charged people a dollar and a half just to see 'em.")
Another new one she did is "Woodstock" - soon to be released as a rock single by Crosby, Stills and Nash, which, at least as she sang it, had a faintly Russian tone. "I'm goin' down to Yeager's farm. Can I walk beside you?"
"It really seems good to sing for you," she finally brought herself to say, before doing two encores.
As a performer, Joni Mitchell gives the impression she is singing for you only because she is hoping you won't notice her utter inability to scrub those pots out back.
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