Joni Mitchell

Painting with Words and Music

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Joni Mitchell's exquisite voice and guitar playing are on display in this satisfying hour-and-a-half-plus of the iconic performer directed by Joan Tosoni and filmed in an intimate setting. The dominant instruments are, no surprise, the singer's voice and her guitar, which is heavy with liquid effects. Much effort went into the circular set and the six cameras have unobstructed views with graceful pans and elegant zoom-ins. Mitchell is the set designer and editorial director with her own paintings adding to the decor, positioned on the walls that swing around the set. There's a two-and-a-half minute discussion of the event before actress Rosanna Arquette introduces the star and the festivities begin. A semi-pensive and solo "Big Yellow Taxi" opens the show, Mitchell not worried about being under this stunningly beautiful microscope that is the colorful set and the all-revealing eye of all these cameras. "Just Like This Train" has the singer close to her artwork and strumming the guitar as if with a paint brush, quite possibly an intentional metaphor from the clever singer always exposing her intuition with a bit of flair. She announces the band early on, just prior to "Night Ride Home," and the musicians ease into the program like drawings that quietly and slowly come to life. The pop style is maintained throughout the jazz leanings of this group of performers, "Black Crow," "Amelia," and "Hejira" getting not only the sustained sound of the perfectly fluid ensemble, but complementary camera work which drives around the set and the performers as well as capturing the faces of audience members and Mitchell's moves, all to wonderful effect. The concert is top-notch with material that stretches across her career up to the 1998 release Taming the Tiger, and it features Mitchell telling some stories in between songs; there's a warm rapport with those in attendance which translates well to the viewer. The final song, which appears after the concert on track 19, is a percussive "Dream Land," once covered by Roger McGuinn, with Mitchell and her musicians on couches casually performing as the credits roll. Bonus tracks include a discography and filmography, but it is the main event that will keep your attention. Taped at Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, CA and produced in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, this is a very contained production, a high quality presentation put together with the refinement Mitchell fans expect.

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