Friday, March 11 – Sunday, March 13
Julia Deans (formerly of Fur Patrol) is an incredible singer. As well as continuing to work as a songwriter and original artist (new album out in the next few months, her long-awaited second) she has also made a name for herself as a show-singer across the last few years. There was her role in BREL at the last NZ Festival, a recent turn in a production of Jesus Chris Superstar and this show, Both Sides Now, which was originally performed as part of The Auckland Festival in 2014.
Deans isn’t trying to do a Joni Mitchell tribute, there’s no blonde wig, no narrative thread of back-story to weave through the songs and, she jokes, “no chain smoking”, but this is still very much a tribute to Mitchell – because it is a show comprised of her incredible songs, both the hits (River, Big Yellow Taxi) and the slightly more obscure, and often more rewarding album tracks (Little Green, The Fiddle and The Drum) and Deans, leading an all-star band that includes Sean Donnelly (SJD) on bass and Paul McLaney (Gramsci, The Impending Adorations) on guitar is wonderful as conjurer and conduit, the songs moving through her, the band always respectful in the arrangements, from the percussive jazzy slide of Dreamland (featuring the dynamic Tom Broome on drums) to the subverted torch balladry of Blue and The Last Time I Saw Richard, where it was simply Deans’ glorious voice and the perfect piano playing of Robin Kelly.
Deans accompanied herself on Amelia, one of several high notes – and when she soared up into that higher register she was capable of channelling Joni, effortlessly. The version of Woodstock was an exquisite smoulder, the renditions of Help Me and Free Man In Paris showed her courting a band in full spark. A lovely tribute, a reminder of so many great songs and of a powerful, beautiful voice.
This review first appeared in The Dominion Post and online at Stuff here