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Joni Mitchell In An Evening Of Empathy Print-ready version

by John V Hurst
Sacramento Bee
March 2, 1974
Original article: PDF

They were songs of anecdote, imagery, loving and rue. Of a "heaven full of astronauts," of "the pleasure [of] . . . watching your hairline recede," of "just living on nerves and feelings," of a "moon swept down black water / like an empty spotlight."

They were songs by Joni Mitchell, folkish musical poetess and fledged member of a sisterhood embracing the likes of Judy Collins, Carly Simon, Carole King and---yes---Joan Baez. La Mitchell captivated an appreciative, near-capacity crowd in Sacramento's Memorial Auditorium Thursday night, warming it with a generous---23 songs---sampling of her work.

Better than wine---you're "so sweet . . . I could drink a case of you" and "still be on my feet," she sang, moving then to a scene filled with "needles, guns and grass---lots of laughs," where "everybody's saying that Hell's the hippest way to go."

She looked tall, standing onstage, like a straight-haired blonde amalgam of Faye Dunaway and Dinah Shore. Sexy too. And she flashed tune-girt insights, confessions, and empathies like sequins at an audience that knew most of the words already anyway.

She got a rousing opening sendoff by her backup group, Tom Scott & The L.A. Express, a surprisingly jazz-rooted quintet ---drums, lead, bass, keyboards and reeds. It is a springing, driving, solidly cohesive group of superb musicians. They can turn music and rhythm into aural spaghetti and still keep in touch with a comprehensive schematic. With Scott on reeds---especially his soprano sax, Roger Calloway on electric piano and Robben Ford on lead guitar, the group's musical inventiveness extends beyond its exciting interplay to some truly eerie sonorities.

Scott's band opened the show nineteen minutes late with a set of six numbers, then backed Mitchell for fourteen of the songs she sang. The rest she performed alone onstage---at guitar, zither and piano---right after the overlong 37-minute intermission. At that, there was a lot music: a solid two hours, twenty-five minutes of it, and the crowd gave her a standing three-minute ovation to court her encores.

It was the first concert for Sacramento's smoke-happy pop music crowd since the city's new ban on smoking in public places. Thus, far fewer matches flared last night than have lit the hall in times past. But what they lit smelled even less of burning tobacco than usual---a risky proposition in a day when you conceivably can get busted no matter what you're smoking.

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Added to Library on July 28, 2021. (271)

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