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'Chirp' Description Hardly Fits Enduring Singer Mitchell   Print

by Doug Pullen
Flint Journal
May 26, 2000

At a recent performance in Florida, jazz-loving folk-pop auteur Joni Mitchell referred to herself as "just a chirp with a band."

Mitchell is hardly a chirp, though she's been know to hit a few bird-like notes over her storied and sometimes enigmatic career. A true pop music outsider who has influenced the likes of Sarah McLachlan and k.d. lang, Mitchell rarely tours anymore and rarely does anything predictable.

Her new album, "Both Sides Now," features her interpretations of standards from the '20s through '60s, including "Stormy Weather" and her own "Both Sides Now," set to orchestral accompaniment.

Mitchell is so committed to the project that she rounded up Vince Mendoza, who orchestrated and arranged most of the record; her former husband, producer and bassist Larry Klein; and a band that includes horn man Wallace Roney and drummer Peter Erskine and hit the road.

The 12-city tour will make its penultimate stop at Clarkston's Pine Knob Music Theatre at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Seating is restricted to the pavilion only. Tickets are $55 and $75, available at the box office and Ticketmaster.

Mitchell, who last performed in Detroit on Oct. 28, 1998, with Bob Dylan at the Palace, is being accompanied in each city by a 70-piece orchestra hired from a local talent pool. Unlike her '98 tour, she's not playing guitar, just singing - or chirping as the case may be.

The concert is divided into two halves, with Mitchell performing all 11 songs from the "Both Sides Now" CD, plus a variety of others. Previous shows have included "Hejira," "For the Roses" and "Trouble Man."

It sounds like an elegant evening of refined pop music. Too bad it's not at the more intimate and pristine Meadow Brook Music Festival site at nearby Oakland University.

In other Joni news, "Voices," a retrospective of Mitchell's 30 years as a visual artist, opens June 30 at the Mendel Art Gallery in her hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. It runs through Sept. 17 and includes a detailed catalog. There's talk that the exhibit could, like its creator, go on the road.

MO JAZZ: The name has changed, but the talent roster is just as impressive for the 2000 Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival Sept. 1-4 at Hart Plaza. Among the headliners for the former Montreux Detroit Jazz Festival are Kalamazoo native Abbey Lincoln, the equally estimable Nancy Wilson, Dr. John, Poncho Sanchez and the Mingus Big Band. Some area university and high school jazz bands are likely to perform as well.

LINER NOTES: Dickey Betts will not participate in the Allman Brothers Band's summer tour, including their July 22 show at Pine Knob. "Creative differences" were cited in a press release from the band. Betts will be replaced by guitarist Jimmy Herring, who has played with Bruce Hornsby. ... The overlooked and underrated country music rebel Shelby Lynne has been added to the Aug. 22 k.d. lang show at Pine Knob. What a bill: two country expatriates, two vocal powerhouses. ... Ministry is off the Ozzfest tour, which comes to Pine Knob July 12.

PEACHY KEEN: Former Flint area hillbilly rockers the Ghettobillies headline a beach party Saturday at Heath Beach in Milan. The band's performance will be filmed for posterity. Admission is $6. "Thongs are allowed," they noted in a recent e-mail press release. The beach is private. Admission is $6, BYOB. Take the Cone Road exit from U.S. 23.

Doug Pullen covers music and media. He may be reached at (810) 766-6140, by fax at (810) 767-7518 or e-mail to fj@flintj.com or pullen@tir.com.

 

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