If nothing else was established by Brandi Carlile’s live recreation of Joni Mitchell’s 1971 Blue album, and plenty else was, it was that the 38-year-old singer has nerves even steelier than her vocal cords are pliable.
Mitchell is as impossible to emulate as a ridiculously tricky singer, songwriter, and picker as they come, which would set the bar for homage high enough even if she wasn’t known for not always having suffered foolish acolytes gladly.
As it turned out
Carlile had a pretty good head start on getting a thumbs-up from Mitchell for her tribute show Monday night at Walt Disney Hall, where she made it clear to the L.A.
the audience that in recent months she had ingratiated herself into her heroines’ wine cellar, and probably heart, too. But still: Playing Blue in its entirety in front of Mitchell, who was sitting two seats away from another Carlile hero, Elton John, should’ve been enough to drench the coolest cucumber in flop sweat.
Better late than never
Elton, as it turned out, had a term for any singer dotty enough to assign herself Blue public homework. However, Carlile admitted at one point that she immediately regretted her decision to even say that in the first place.
John might have been referring specifically to her intention to avoid cheat sheets. The songwriter even expressed how it was a time of tremendous growth for her, taking her tongue out of her cheek for a moment.
Talk on stage
This was, by any standard, an event: a set of 10 confessional songs that, by acclamation, is one of the landmark albums of the previous century, brought back to life by the best pure singer we’ve had in this one.
The concert, given its own title perhaps in a nod to the classical programs that usually fill the hall, Songs Are Like Tattoos, was a one-off, with no cameras or mobile trucks on hand to record the event for posterity.