LIVE: “Joni Mitchell: A Tribute” @ The Falcon, 11/17/17
Photographs by Rudy Lu
As bassist/producer/musical mad scientist Scott Petito led his sextet onto the stage at The Falcon in Marlboro, impresario Tony Falco sheepishly told us, “This band doesn’t have a name.” A few quick words with the band gave Falco the information he needed. “Joni Mitchell: A Tribute,” he announced, “by Shadows & Light!” Thus began one of Petito’s most interesting homages to date – and that’s from someone whose previous subjects include Sun Ra and Steely Dan, with Traffic waiting in the wings at Hudson’s Club Helsinki next month.
All the artists in that last paragraph may come from completely different points on the artistic compass, but they all boast a longtime support base that put the “fan” in “fanatical.” Mitchell was singing songs of love, loss and devotion before Taylor Swift’s parents were born, so it was no wonder there were several generations of fans singing along with almost every tune in Shadows & Light’s 90-minute set. That selfsame devotion was clearly represented onstage, too: To see vocalist Leslie Ritter’s smiling, eyes-closed expression as she listened to keyboardist Rachel Z’s gorgeous intro to the opening song “Blue” was to see someone who was clearly thinking, “Bucket List item achieved… and I get PAID!”
Warmth, love and light flowed from the band to the SRO audience and back as Ritter, Gail Ann Dorsey and Veronica Nunn led us through a scintillating (and all-too-short) examination of Mitchell’s legendary discography: From the simplicity of Clouds to the complexity of Mingus, with a heaping helping of Ladies of the Canyon in between. By the time Dorsey knocked the set-closer “Free Man in Paris” out of the park, the crowd didn’t want one more song – they wanted one more set!
Those who were smitten by this deep, color-drenched concept may have to settle for only one more set, as Petito announced on Facebook that Shadows & Light’s December 1 gig at the Colony in Woodstock would be the last show for this band – though later he added the qualifier “For now.” Hope springs eternal! Stay tuned!