Pros: Fabulous intimate concert DVD highlighting Joni Mitchell's music and art.
Cons: I would have liked to have seen a little more of Joni Mitchell's art.
I count myself a casual fan of Joni Mitchell's. I like to listen to her brand of folk rock music sometimes. I enjoy the songs that she wrote that others have made popular... songs like "Woodstock" and "Both Sides Now". I had heard she was an artist, but I never knew much about that side of her. I got my chance to find out more about Joni Mitchell's art as it's combined with music when I rented Mitchell's 1998 DVD Painting with Words and Music from Netflix.com. All I can say after watching this DVD is that I had no idea that Joni Mitchell was even more talented than I knew her to be as a singer and songwriter.
This DVD starts off with Rosanna Arquette introducing Joni Mitchell, calling her an amazing person, and pointing out Joni's paintings, which adorn the walls in the cozy venue. The lighting is low and intimate and there are couches and lamps set up everywhere on the Warner Brothers lot in Los Angeles, where this DVD was shot. The audience is sedate and appreciative when Joni comes out with her band, which includes her ex husband, Larry Klein. Joni starts to sing her big hit "Big Yellow Taxi" and I hear the toll that heavy cigarette smoking and hard living have had on her once luminous soprano voice. She sounds more like Carly Simon these days than the old Joni Mitchell from the 1970s. According to Wikipedia.com, Joni Mitchell started smoking at 9 years old. Unfortunately the years of heavy smoking show, but after awhile, I no longer care much about that. Joni Mitchell has a wonderful way with words and she really seems to relate to her audience. Her audience, in turn, seems to adore her.
When Painting with Words and Music came out, Joni Mitchell was 55 years old. From a distance, she looks younger than her years as she sings, plays electric guitar, and dances, sharing stories about her long career with her audience. Mitchell says she's always thought of herself as more of a painter and artist than a singer and songwriter. In the course of this concert, we get to hear her sing, listen to her stories, look at her paintings, and even watch her dance. She's joined by Brian Blade on drums, Larry Klein on bass, Mark Isham on trumpet, and Mark Leisz on additional guitars. Afterwards, I'm left wondering if there's anything this woman can't do as an artist. She really is something of an artistic Renaissance Woman.
My husband, Bill, who watched this DVD with me, commented that Joni Mitchell does not, as a songwriter, practice economy when it comes to words. She makes the words fit her music. She's not bound by rules. When I listen to her songs, which are often so confessional and personal, I hear songs that really convey a message. Joni Mitchell's words and music may not fit together as neatly as puzzle pieces, but she always has something to say. And by God, she says what she wants to say with her music. Sometimes the camera closes in on one of Joni's paintings as she sings and I get a glimpse of what a talented artist she is. As legend has it, Mitchell considers herself an artist first and a musician second. You'd never know it to listen to her. Graham Nash makes a guest appearance toward the end of the DVD to present her with her entrance into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Painting with Words and Music runs for one hour and thirty-eight minutes and is unrated. I thought the picture and sound quality on this DVD were great. I have read other reviews that suggest that the sound quality on Painting with Words and Music is not the best, but I didn't find that to be the case. Maybe it depends on where the DVD comes from. I don't know if this DVD would appeal to youngsters, but there's nothing on it that would be offensive to them. I was struck by just how sensual and womanly Joni Mitchell still comes across after her long, incredible career as a singer-songwriter. She may have lost some of her vocal range, but she hasn't lost her sense of style or her artistic sensibilities. If you're a Joni Mitchell fan, I'd highly recommend checking out this DVD.
More information about Painting with Words and Music
Available Audio Tracks: English (DTS), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
1. Tiger Bones
2. Big Yellow Taxi
3. Just Like This Train
4. Night Ride Home
5. Crazy Cries Of Love
6. Harry's House
7. Black Crow
10. Sex Kills
11. The Magdalene Laundries
12. Moon At The Window
13. Face Lift
14. Why Do Fools Fall In Love?
15. Trouble Man
16. Nothing Can Be Done
17. Song For Sharon
Joni Mitchell's (fantastic!) Web site: http://www.jonimitchell.com