Atomic! Hailing The Pioneering Women Of Rock & Roll – Civic Theatre: November 11, 2023

Five of New Zealand’s premiere female singers (and all woman and non binary musicians) celebrated the music of Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Joan Jett and more last night at Auckland’s Civic Theatre.

On stage singing (and often dancing) were Julia Deans (Fur Patrol), Dianne Swann (The Bads), Gussie Larkin (Mermaidens), Jazmine Mary and last minute replacement Boh Runga (Stellar) filling in for Gin Wigmore who found herself unable to travel from LA for the shows.

AtomicAnd the band featured a few luminaries including guitarist Rebel Reid (Valkyrie), Steph Brown (Lips) on keys along with Mareea Vegas (bass) and drummer Karen Hu.

Most of the song performed over the two set were hits in the late 70s and early 80s by acts such as Blondie, Patti Smith and Eurythmics although Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick did get a look in with White Rabbit and Somebody To Love.

The feeling was festive at the Civic and the wine was flowing as things got underway just after 8pm with Blondie’s Heart Of Glass, sung by Gussie Larkin.

“Go Rebel!” shouted an audience member and off we went.

AtomicThere’s always an urge to dance when Heart Of Glass is played and the Civic isn’t perhaps the best venue for those who want to shake their bootys while others want to sit and see.

“We encourage dancing” announced Julie Deans who was something of a de facto spokesperson for the group.

Boh Runga then added her rock & roll swagger to The Pretenders’ Brass In Pocket. While the performances we excellent, the sound seemed a bit flat initially, gaining punch as the show moved along.

After Boh’s Bad Reputation, someone else called out “Go Mareea!”

“I think that was your husband”, Julia said to the bass player.

“It wasn’t!” was the response from the audience member.

Good-natured heckling aside, the show proceeded with Dianne Swann singing a hypnotic Dancing Barefoot and Julia taking the reins for Dreaming.

We finally got to hear Jazmine Mary when they closed out the first set with Eurythmics’ Love Is A Stranger and the Airplane’s Somebody To Love before Dianne gave all she got during Patti Smith’s Gloria.

Another highlight of the first set was Boh’s take on Joan Armatrading’s Me, Myself I complete with Boh’s chunky guitar riffing.

A quick trip to the bar and it’s on to part two…starting with White Rabbit (Jazmine singing) and then Missionary Man featuring Louisa Nicklin on sax.

This is when I started to consider what I might include in the set and what I might drop.


I would have liked to have heard something from The Go-Gos and The Motels and maybe a Kiwi tune…Tears by Crocodiles…in place of Missionary Man, Precious and/or Crimson & Clover. I’m sure there were plenty of debates leading up to the shows as to who and what songs to include.  Pat Benatar wasn’t represented and The Bangles only showed up for the encore.

The second set ended with Atomic, perhaps not one of Blondie’s greatest hits…I would have preferred Call Me or Hangin’ On The Telephone or X-Offender or The Tide Is High.

I will say I was impressed with Gussie’s rapping during Rapture!

Alright…enough second-guessing… as Julia said after her solo turn on Chrissie Hyde’s Hymn To Her, “Let’s do it again next year!”

If they do, I’ll be there.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Leonie Moreland:

Atomic First Set:
  1. Heart Of Glass (Blondie sung by Gussie
  2. Brass In Pocket (Pretenders) sung by Boh
  3. Bad Reputation (Joan Jett) sung by Boh
  4. Hong Kong Garden (Siouxsie And The Banshees) sung by Gussie
  5. Dancing Barefoot (Patti Smith) sung by Dianne
  6. Dreamin’ (Blondie) sung by Julia
  7. Back On The Chain Gang (Pretenders) sung by Dianne
  8. Me Myself I (Joan Armatrading) sung by Boh
  9. Love Is A Stranger (Eurythmics) sung by Jazmine
  10. Somebody To Love (Jefferson Airplane) sung by Jazmine
  11. Gloria (Patti Smith) sung by Dianne
Second Set:
  1. White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane) sung by Jazmine
  2. Missionary Man (Eurythmics) sung by Julia
  3. Precious (Pretenders) sung by Dianne
  4. Crimson & Clover (Joan Jett) sung by Jazmine
  5. Rapture (Blondie) sung by Gussie
  6. Thorn In My Side (Eurythmics) sung by Dianne
  7. Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) (Eurythmics) sung by Boh
  8. Because The Night (Patti Smith) sung by Jazmine
  9. Barracuda (Heart) sung by Julia
  10. Atomic (Blondie) sung by Julia
  11. Hymn To Her (Pretenders) sung by Julia
  12. Walk Like An Egyptian (Bangles) sung by Gussie