Theater Review: TAKE ME AS I AM: A JONI MITCHELL TRIBUTE (Rainee Blake at Three Clubs in Hollywood)

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by Tony Frankel on June 11, 2023

in Concerts / Events,Theater-Los Angeles


During the 2018 Music Center concert, Joni 75: A Birthday Celebration Live, Peter Gabriel sent a prescient message to the artists interpreting Joni Mitchell’s complex lyrics and melodies: “I pity the people who have to sing them tonight.” Instead of showing a true appreciation of Mitchell’s multifaceted genius, the Pop world’s greatest stars tried in vain to interpret Joni’s unequalled songs, and — with the exception of Brandi Carlisle, who has championed Joni’s comeback since the singer/songwriter’s 2015 brain aneurysm — barely passed or failed miserable. Really, of all the covers of Joni, no one does Joni better than Joni. Until now.

Wouldn’t it be great to actually see Joni live performing Joni’s early work — say, her first major decade from the mid-1960s to the mid-’70s? You can — at The Hollywood Fringe of all places. In one of the most successful “tribute” performances I have ever seen, Australian-born singer-songwriter, actress and writer Rainee Blake is offering a recreated 1976 concert — including joyous monologues and introspections in Joni’s iconic Canadian accent and mannerisms (watch how Blake tunes her instruments just like Joni) — right after she has returned from a solo road trip. The country was just as deeply divided in the 1960s and ’70s as now, but composers like Joni let artistry win over anger; thus her early work remains more compelling and inspirational than ever. And the location of the Three Clubs Bar in Hollywood is perfectly intimate, as if we were watching Joni in a Greenwich Village coffeehouse. We got there early and nabbed a front-row table. Behind the tables near the stage are rows of café chairs, and there are projections of Joni on the audience left wall which fill the space well.

Joni is just about to release her eighth studio album, Hejira, so the songs you’ll get are from her most recent album, Court and Spark, back to the first, Songs for a Seagull. Accompanying herself on hammer dulcimer and both acoustic and electric guitars, the barefooted Blake uncannily nails Mitchell’s voice right at the time it began to shift from mezzo-soprano to that of a wide-ranging contralto. This is classic Joni, sweet, high and bell-like, with an incredible sense of pitch and rhythm. I was most impressed with Blake’s ability to get those ambitious, piercing falsetto notes with ease. “Free Man in Paris,” “Little Green,” “Circle Game,” “Woodstock,” “Both Sides Now,” “Coyote” and “A Case of You,” among others, sounded crystalline and evoked enough charm to create a room full of stardust. I had an empty beer after the first song, thought about getting one, and the next thing I knew the hour+ Take Me As I Am: A Joni Mitchell Tribute was over. Who needed alcohol? I was high on happiness. Do not miss this stunning achievement.

Take Me As I Am: A Joni Mitchell Tribute
Three Clubs’ Stage Room, 1123 N Vine St in Hollywood (21+ only)
Sunday June 11 at 6:30pmSaturday June 17 at 4pmSunday June 18 at 3pmSaturday June 24 at 10:30pm
for tickets ($15), visit Fringe
for more info, visit Renee’s site and Facebook

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