wed 22/05/2024

The Songs of Joni Mitchell, Roundhouse review - fans (old and new) toast to an icon of our age | reviews, news & interviews

The Songs of Joni Mitchell, Roundhouse review - fans (old and new) toast to an icon of our age

The Songs of Joni Mitchell, Roundhouse review - fans (old and new) toast to an icon of our age

A stellar line up of artists reimagine some of Mitchell’s most magnificent works

Tangled up in blue (and purple) Credit: Victor Frankowski

For most people’s 40th birthday celebrations, they might get a few friends together, rustle up a cake, and toast to another turn around the sun. But when musician Lail Arad realised the stars had aligned with her beloved Joni Mitchell's own 80th birthday, she knew she had to mark the milestone moment with something special.

Thus, The Songs of Joni Mitchell was born, an intimate evening celebrating the iconic singer-songwriter as part of this year’s In The Round festival. Mitchell was one of the first women in modern rock to achieve enviable longevity and critical recognition. Her works inspired some of music’s biggest names including Bob Dylan, Prince and Donna Summer. Outliving so many of these peers though, The Songs of Joni Mitchell sees a new generation of imaginative songwriters capturing her colourful craft, including artists like folk singer and pianist Olivia Chaney who had the daunting task of opening proceedings. Undeterred, she captivated with a blissful rendition of "Amelia"*, comparing the aviation pioneer to herself with their collective dreams to fly. (L-R) JF Robitaille, Lail Arad and Sam AmidonChaney’s piano-led performance was boosted by the backing of The Roundhouse Ensemble choir. The collective formed as part of the arts hub's creative programme following a nationwide callout. As Mercury Prize-nominated songwriter Eska reflects after her imaginative handling of Mingus’ "The Wolf That Lives in Lindsey", it’s hard to believe that these vocalists have never performed together before tonight. Naturally, what has since become renowned as a masterpiece in exploring heartache, 1971’s Blue gets a hefty nod throughout the setlist. Arad lends her charming lilt to "Big Yellow Taxi" before Canadian pairing JF Robitaille and Sam Amidon join her for "Carey", complete with jaunty violin from the latter. 

Mercury Prize-nominated multi-instrumentalist Eska Elsewhere, Vashti Bunyan takes the wintry arm of the evening. Her tender trio formation treats us to "River" and "Little Green" while Scottish songwriter Emeli Sandé takes her turn behind the Baby Grand mastering "This Flight Tonight". She quickly brings us bang up to date with "Both Clouds Now", the song that Mitchell herself performed at this year’s Grammys. But tonight’s stand-out has to be Kate Stables, the musician behind This Is the Kit and, for one night only, our Appalachian Dulcimer player.This Is The Kit's Kate Stables performs A Case Of YouStables explained how she felt it was only right to teach herself, given that Mitchell wrote so much of Blue on the instrument. (Not to mention her Dad having a collection of them!) The auditorium was hushed as she slided the chords of "A Case of You" up and down the neck before welcoming Jesca Hoop and Lail Arad back onto the stage together for an Andrew Sisters-sounding "Raised on Robbery". 

As Chaney joked at the top of the celebrations, “You must all be die-hard fans unless you’re in the wrong room.” If we weren’t before, we all leave very much tangled up in Blue.

(*Ed's Note: The original nod to Ladies of the Canyon’s "Woodstock", a song Mitchell famously wrote after watching the festival from her agent David Geffen’s hotel suite on TV, was performed by the Roundhouse Ensemble led by every rose

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