by: Paulanne Simmons
Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell wrote many of the songs that helped define both the music and the ethos of a generation. Songs like “Urge for Going,” “Chelsea Morning” and “Both Sides Now” were covered by many artists even before she recorded her debut album in 1968. From her home in southern California, Mitchell wrote music that kept evolving, embracing and combining Jazz, R&B, classical music and rock and roll.
Remy Block pays tribute to Joni Mitchell while she recounts her very personal encounter with the work of the legendary singer. Her show, On a Lonely Road…Travelin’ with Joni is traveling around the cabaret circuit and landed for one night, on June 10, at The Duplex in Greenwich Village.
This show, however, is much more about Block than Mitchell. We learn of her childhood in Dallas, her college years in Boulder, her burgeoning career and rocky romances as an adult. Mitchell’s songs serve mostly to illustrate Block’s adventures and the emotions that accompanied them.
Under Gregory Toroian’s musical direction, Block’s rendition of songs like “Urge for Going,” “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Black Crow” are highly idiosyncratic. Mitchell’s lush harmonies and strong melodic lines are often either altered or lost, depending on how you look at it. Clearly Block is willing to take risks.
Director Raquel Cion keeps Block moving around the stage. At one point she even climbs up onto the piano, though it’s not particularly clear why. In fact, too much of this show seems over-rehearsed. Often Block appears to be acting rather than talking to the audience. It’s hard to tell whether she feels an emotion or wants the audience to feel it.
Block’s strong point, however, is her voice. It is rich and powerful, with a range that easily handles Joni Mitchell’s repertoire. One can’t help but wonder what would happen if she just sang the songs as they were written.
The Duplex is at 61 Christopher Street, www.theduplex.com.