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Carlile takes her chances on feeling "Blue"

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, October 14, 2019

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

During a rare moment sitting at the piano and appropriately dressed in blue, Brandi Carlile paraphrased a memorable Joni Mitchell quote. Basically, it went that, if you listen to Joni Mitchell music and only picture Mitchell - but not yourself - something is wrong. While Carlile, who performed Mitchell's "Blue" album in its entirety for this concert, may feel this introspective way with Mitchell's music, it was difficult to think of anyone other than the iconic Joni while Carlile sang Mitchell's songs.

Mitchell's "Blue" album is just so personal and filled with starkly confessional lyrics, it's like her diary from that time, preserved for all. Carlile was backed by a large band, and even backing vocalists (Lucius) and a string section at times, when she usually only plays live with Phil and Tim Hanseroth.

Carlile called this event Songs are Like Tattoos, and Mitchell's music has clearly left its mark on the singer/songwriter. Carlile stayed true to the original arrangements of these songs, saying from the outset that she wanted fans to have a chance to hear "Blue" performed live.

Carlile is an amazingly talented singer, able to hit all those high notes Mitchell once hit, back before her voice was forever deepened through years of cigarette smoking. High points included "River," which Carlile described as one of the few holiday songs that allow one to grieve during the (usually happy) season. She also sang "A Case of You," which she called one of the greatest songs of all time, and encored with a newer Mitchell song, "Shine." She also praised the state of California for oftentimes being on the right side of history, before singing "California."

It was a gutsy move to perform an album of Mitchell's music, made even more daring with Mitchell herself making a rare public appearance in the audience. Other celebrity notables included Bonnie Raitt and Sir Elton John. Of course, though, Joni Mitchell's music was nevertheless the brightest star this night. It's exciting to see artists stretching and taking risks. Following Carlile's all-girl Highwomen project, Songs are Like Tattoos found Carlile still taking chances.