Reflecting back, the recent Joni Mitchell appearance at Portland's Civic Auditorium could be described as "exquisite". From her dazzling entrance in a low-cut, backless, red halter-dress, to her exit after two encore songs, Miss Mitchell spun a sensual web of enchantment over the appreciative Portland audience. The beautiful Canadian singer combined vocal versatility with sensitive, haunting lyrics to produce a musical effort which was easily one of Portland's finest concerts of the year.
Beginning the concert, a talented, but relatively unknown group called the L.A. Express (the backup group on her latest album) performed a series of progressive jazz tunes. Featuring Tom Scott on the saxophone, the group displayed a tight, dynamic style that broke the pre-concert jitters of the audience.
Greeted by a standing ovation, Joni Mitchell slipped onto the stage. Opening with six tunes including "Woodstock," and "Free Man in Paris," Miss Mitchell combined with the L.A. Express in a jazzy but still extremely pure style.
After a ten-minute break she reappeared, but this time unaccompanied. Wearing a powder blue dress with her honey-colored hair cropped just above her breasts, she performed with a style and polish all her own. Switching from guitar, to dulcimer, to piano, and then back again, the delicate, versatile quality of her voice, as well as her talented musicianship, held the audience spellbound. Singing from all her works but emphasizing songs from her latest album, "Court and Spark," and her third album, "Ladies of the Canyon," she sat playing and singing, alone on the immense stage. Included among her selections were "For the Roses," "Blue," "The Circle Game," "You Turn Me On I'm a Radio," and "The Arrangement."
Conversing with the audience, accepting various gifts from her fans, the singer seemed to emanate the warmth and beauty of her songs. Soloing for nearly two hours, she compelled the capacity crowd to utter silence. Lacing her performance with even more beauty, she presented a new, yet untitled love song which the audience reacted to with much enthusiasm.
L.A. Express joined Ms. Mitchell again and the concert returned to it's [sic] somewhat jazzy flavor, but maintained an honest and sincere quality. Closing the performance with "Raised on Robbery," she stepped-off the stage in the same way as she had entered, with a standing ovation. After four minutes of wild applause, she came back on stage and did a double encore singing "The Last Time I Saw Richard," and "Twisted."
With the end of the encore, the audience silently filed out the giant glass doors of the Auditorium. After three hours of beautiful music by a truly extraordinary lady, they could ask no more. Reluctantly, they acknowledged that it was, indeed, time to let her go.
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