Joni Mitchell is one of the most iconic song writers of all time, her voice is famous for its extensive range and her lyrics are poetry. This means the Canadian musician is a pretty hard act to imitate, yet a Kiwi musician is doing an incredible job of it.
As part of the NZ Festival Julia Deans has spent the last three nights performing her take on Mitchell’s songbook in three packed out shows at Shed 6 in Wellington. Both Sides Now was a compelling, emotion evoking and entertaining show which showcased Mitchell’s many hits in perfect fashion.
Deans, who’s best known for her role as lead singer of Fur patrol and collaborator in The Adults, was superb. The control she has in her voice has she jumps from low to high notes is astonishing. Think back to the hook in the chorus to Fur Patrol’s biggest hit Lydia, remember how effortlessly she sang “my baby”? Well take that skill, apply it to Mitchell’s songs which jump around all over the show, and Deans is the perfect artist to tackle such a varied songbook.
I really appreciated that Deans was quick to tell us this wasn’t going to be one of those cheesy tribute shows, it was just her and band, performing the tunes they loved. No need for a false blonde wig or “chain smoking cigarettes”. Deans lets the music and her talent speak for itself and it works exceptionally well.
But that’s not to say Deans didn’t put her own twist on the songs, I loved her growly vocals in Woodstock, River was sped up and band heavy and her jolly take on Big Yellow Taxi made for the perfect show closer. She channelled Mitchell particularly well during the sadder, slower numbers from the Blue album. Last Time I Saw Richard, Little Green and Blue were clear highlights of the gig for me -just Deans singing soulfully accompanied by brilliant pianist Robin Kelly. The other band members – Paul McLaney on guitar, SJD on bass and Tom Broome on drums, are all quality musicians who helped to enhance the show.
Another stellar moment included a performance of The Fiddle And The Drum which Deans sang in a chilling fashion with no backing. She skillfully played Amelia on her rickenbacker electric guitar and nailed it vocally.
Both Sides Now by Julia Deans and band is an enthralling showcase of Joni Mitchell’s songbook. I’d highly recommend checking it out when it comes to a town near you.