For the fourth, and best, of TNT tribute concert series, talent director Ali Gifford found an A-list of performers who clearly have fallen under Joni Mitchell’s spell during her 30-plus year career. Highlights are numerous, but nothing warms the heart more than seeing Mitchell, seated in an opera box to the side of the stage, bask in and get overwhelmed by the performances.
Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin steal the show with a pair of stellar duets; Richard Thompson turns in a stunning “Woodstock”; and James Taylor adds a commercially potent layer to “River” that, should he record it with ‘N Sync behind him, would easily sell a million copies.
Most renditions play it safe. And it may come as a shock to some that Cassandra Wilson’s scatting runthrough of “Dry Cleaner From Des Moines” was indeed recorded that wildly jazzy when Mitchell teamed with the legendary Charles Mingus. Wilson controls the song with the aid of trumpeter Mark Isham, who gives nearly early number an added glow.
Mitchell performs at the end with string orchestra, singing the arrangement of “Both Sides Now” that can be found on her new Reprise album of the same name. On the album, she covers an assortment of love songs and standards that, like “Both Sides Now” in the TV show, display wonderfully her voice has matured since her groundbreaking records of the early 1970s.