With Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, Kris Kristofferson, Diane Krall, James Taylor | Music
Canadian singer songwriter Joni Mitchell takes a back stage for her birthday celebration tribute concert which features some of the World’s best known singers. Arriving on the arms of her escorts, she sits down to enjoy her own work performed by others. And it’s a motley crew – a bit like asking Polanski to direct a Scorsese film – it’s just not the same classic, but the original elements are still there. So if you’re expecting to hear Joni sing, you’ll be disappointed but entertained royally, nevertheless.
Most Memorable of all is Graham Nash who strikes out with the only song not written by Joni – but for her – Our House, simply and poignantly performed on the piano (and what a fabulous strong voice still – at 77). The two lived together for several years in their twenties in California. Diane Krall also shines with her husky voice of warm treacle. Seal sings softly (but then spoils it with a wimpish comment “I worship the ground you walk on”). But Chaka Khan brings a welcome vitality to the stage after Emmylou Harris’ dreadfully bland rendition of a song about Irish convent girls. Awful too, is Rufus Wainwright who really ruins Joni’s stunning song Blue, and then talks about his husband, thanking him profusely, for some reason. No Rufus – not your platform, thanks. He does a slightly better job with “I am on a lonely road and I am travelling….” Although no one could sing it like Joni. Brandi Carlile has the voice most similar to Joni, but more bassy and without the subtle complexity.
James Taylor and Norah Jones are also welcome. During the concert, there are archive clips of Joni on stage and birthday greetings come live via video from Elton John and Peter Gabriel, who gives creative expression to Joni’s iconically complex tunes and lyrics describing them “sparkling like jewels on a trampoline”.
The voluminous LA venue is hung with Van Gogh style artwork of Joni and photos by Henry Diltz, Nurit Wilde and Norman Seeff whose recent Joni: The Joni Mitchell Sessions, is being released in the US on hardback.
Joni 75: A Birthday Celebration Live | The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles, California | NATIONWIDE FROM 4 MARCH 2019