In the spirit of Deborah Conway’s successful all-female Broad project comes a new sisterly tribute show to one of the most accomplished singer-songwriters of all time, Joni Mitchell.
With a cast of seven that mixes established singers (Katie Noonan, Wendy Matthews) with some lesser-known voices (Kristin Berardi, Virni Sanzone), the concerts offer an all-encompassing look at the 65-year-old Canadian folk icon’s still-active career. For queer singer-songwriter Tania Bowra, a longtime Joni fan, the invitation to participate was somewhat unexpected.
“I’m really excited — it’s come totally out of left field for me, because I haven’t been doing a lot of gigging in the past few years. But what a fantastic line-up, and singing Joni Mitchell — God, what more could you want?” she told the Star.
Bowra was among a group of women who took part in several smaller-scale Joni Mitchell tribute gigs at The Basement in the late ’90s. Composer and performer Rachel Gaudry was at the helm then, as now — she’s the musical director as well as one of the seven performers.
“I was very fortunate to be one of the people from those concerts to come over to this new line-up,” Bowra said.
“Each artist is doing four songs, so we each get to spend some time with the audience. I’m sure Rachel could have gotten more artists involved, but instead it’s a smaller number of artists all spending time on their four songs.”
And with Mitchell’s songbook running from folk through rock and on to experimental jazz, there’s sure to be something for every Joni fan.
“There’s been a bit of juggling to make sure everyone’s happy. We all had to submit our top eight Joni songs, and Rachel made her choices based on that. She’s kept us happy, and I think she’ll keep the audience happy too — we don’t miss any of the big hits and the fan favourites.”
With that in mind, is Bowra nervous about tackling such beloved songs? After all, there’ve been some ropey Joni covers over the years (I’m looking at you, Counting Crows).
“Yes and no,” she chuckled.
“Joni songs are very demanding, and you are walking on hallowed ground, there’s no doubt about it. But there’s such a sense of occasion to these concerts, and we’re so excited to all be performing together, that we all feel very fortunate.”
So what will Bowra most be looking forward to playing?
“I don’t have a favourite Joni song… or maybe I do,” she said, clearly overwhelmed by the sheer breadth of Mitchell’s songbook. “There’s one song I’d love to play, but I don’t think I will be, because it’s more obscure. But if I think about the songs that I connect to most viscerally, it would be Coyote (opener to 1976’s Hejira album). I’m playing Coyote and I’m really looking forward to it — there’s just something special about that one.”
info: Joni: A Tribute to the legendary Joni Mitchell plays at the Sydney Opera House on October 30. www.joni.com.au