Blue by coup

Katie Noonan – Joni Mitchell’s Blue 50th Anniversary

QPAC, Concert Hall

May 8

Trailblazing Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell is an incredible musical artist, arguably unparalleled in her musical genius. Few can replicate her husky but sweet sound, however, thankfully for QPAC concertgoers, Queensland’s own Katie Noonan is one of these, as audience members soon see in the (rescheduled) one-off concert coup, that sees the celebrated artist perform Mitchell’s iconic autobiographical 1971 album Blue in commemoration of its 50th anniversary.

Noonan’s vocals are flawless as she explores the album’s consideration of the various facets of relationships, from infatuation in the subtle triumph of ‘A Case of You’ to insecurity in the tonally-rich ‘This Flight Tonight’. But first, audience members are treated to an Act One from up-and-coming artist Jo Davie, whose similarly angelic voice soars through opening number, ‘Clouds’, before some original works, with additional guitar accompaniment by Jack Walton.

After interval, the five-time ARIA award-winning Noonan takes to the stage with her supporting musicians, electrified folk guitarists (Brandon Mamata and Ben Hauptmann), bass player (Steele Chabau) and drummer (Katie’s son Dexter Hurren) to present Blue’s anthology of songs in order as intended by their original album’s curation. The cohesive showcase of the seminal album’s song in their authentic order captures the restlessness of someone traveling, traveling on a lonely road. Indeed, from the opening number, the melodically layered and complex ‘All I Want’, the concert serves as reminder of the work’s songwriting and compositional excellence. Not only this, but Noonan’s consistent, pure vocals and tonal clarity captures the unique style and essence of this iconic artist.

As if sophisticated mastery of the often-complex harmonies is not enough, for some tracks, Noonan provides deceptively simple piano accompaniments, interspersed with snippets of song factoids, like explanation of the subject-matter of Mitchell’s fourth studio album’s title (and thesis) track ‘Blue’, signpost of the poetry of potentially mundane lyrical descriptions in the emotionally weighty ‘My Old Man’ and highlight of the familiar chimes of ‘Jingle Bells’ in the melody of ‘River’.

In addition to the twists and turns of the album’s ten songs, the Act concludes with share of some other Mitchell numbers, yet still, highlights include the uplifting melodies of homesickness in the surprisingly cheerful ‘California’, Mitchell’s postcard song from an escape trip to Europe, as much as the gorgeous yearning balladry of ‘A Case Of You’, thanks to Noonan’s ethereally-voiced ability to evoke the complicated emotions behind the song’s narrative. The Concert Hall aesthetics are as glorious as ever, particularly in lush lighting of Noonan’s piano numbers and the venue’s pristine acoustics make it the perfect site for the show’s serene showcase of vocal talent and celebration of song writing, for Mitchell and Noonan fans alike.

Despite its title, “Katie Noonan – Joni Mitchell’s Blue 50th Anniversary” is about more than just the singularity of Mitchell’s musical focus on what is generally regarded by music critics to be one of the greatest albums of all time. Noonan’s interpretations feel fresh but still faithful to the vulnerable honesty and catharsis at the core of the critically and commercially successful album that Mitchell has herself described as “the purest emotional record that I will ever make in my life”. The poetic imagery and emotional insight evoked are powerful reminders of the universality and thus enduring appeal of Mitchell’s writing, leading to a deserved standing ovation, after which things finish with an ooh, bop-bop-bop-bop ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ singalong to send audience members euphorically into their Sunday nights.

Photos c/o – Nick Maguire