Concert Review: Julia Deans, Ponsonby Social Club, 30 October 2020

Julia Deans is solo tonight with just an acoustic guitar. With the opening song Clandestine and you are overwhelmed with a powerful voice. Powerful and sensual. The high peaks are hit effortlessly and sustained. Deep sadness. Twin Peaks floats down and surrounds. Kill ‘em and begin.

Half an hour ago she has just introduced Kate Owen to the minimalist stage. A pleasant surprise. Kate is a veteran song-writer and for the last ten years has lived in Lyttleton and immersed herself in the artistic community there. After the earthquakes and ongoing turbulence, you must develop some serious creative grounding.

An album, Not a Proper Girl was released in early March this year. Promotional tour planned but the global shockwave intervened and everybody had to hide.

She will be playing with a band the following night, but tonight it’s acoustic and presented in their origin forms.

Lover is a bright Folk Pop song. A sultry seductive tone but her voice sounds trained and she stretches this out and takes us on a swooping emotional ride.

Ask the Stars is a request for celestial help. With acoustic guitar she plays an echo of the opening to Stairway to Heaven. You know that one by Randy California. It is slow, haunting and lost. English Folk, wandering and mourning across windy moors.

Better Man starts as Folk with a nice rhythmic beat but soon progresses to Soul Jazz. Cafes of Europe. Kate was born Anastasiou and has Greek and Romanian origins. Without the band she manages to ring her guitar and wind up the quiet power in her voice similar to Sandie Shaw performing with the Smiths. Heart set on a better man/ Sister tell me what am I to do.

Void and we asked to hear drums. The opening riff is New Wave Indie English Pop.  And then it’s a folk song which slowly builds and surges with rhythmic accents. Some soulful singing.

Well worth catching sometime soon with her full band.

Julia Dean has started with victory. Now it is left to take us on her evenings journey.

There is an album to be expected in the post-Pandemic (we hope) new year. Several new songs get a work out and test run. Like Teeth. A politician in mind with teeth for hands. Nice Gypsy Jazz Café vocals. Rhythm guitar riffs and the voice is wide-ranging and sounds cinematic.

The Wish You Wish You Had is Pop with a lightness of touch and sustained high tone vocals with a Kate Bush playfulness.

The Panic is a song with possible roots in the Seventies Singer-Songwriter era of Laurel Canyon. Especially Joni Mitchell. Julia caught onto her late in her career but eventually did do a tribute concert several years ago.  Starts Folk but the inspiration winds up and it’s a powerful blue-eyed Soul belter. Why do we always sleep alone?

A pretty song about a fucked day is how Come On In is described. Soft and slow melodic opening. A Country voice sings of bad news. But the singer is not tied down and starts to fly and swoop. Ends up emotional and crying. In structure this reminds me of those sad Country Buddy Holly songs charged with a spare rhythmic backing.

The power and pyrotechnics promised with the opening song are sustained through the whole set. She looks effortless but does remind us that some of these are difficult.

Recovery has solid rhythm and brings in some witchy tones on this blue moon evening. Incantatory drone in parts. Keening laments then switching to sexy R’n’B. With a little practice you could you be my hero? The spell is cast so you can’t resist.

The new songs tonight are fascinating and compulsive. One co-written by Delaney Davidson is a work in progress about difficult shit and how to get through. So appropriate to the glorious present. Folk Country. Hypnotic, sad and reflective.

Goliath is story-telling Americana. Starts in a lower measured voice but soon raises the intensity. Flash and fireworks vocals.

Maybe the best is Six-String Heart. Does have your heart on a string. Melancholy and slow, there are nuances and subtleties explored as the song builds. The shackles are thrown and we are suddenly riding the peaks again. Eastern tones appear.

Pet has just been re-released in vinyl. The highly regarded Fur Patrol debut.  Hauling You Around is one of the great Pop tunes off it and here the passion and intensity is dialed towards scorching level.

Walking in the Sun ends the set tonight. Mysterious power, Eastern drone tones and great guitar picking. Swoops to the high register. Controlled and wild.

A bare-bones setting but just perfect for the internal music to shine. Less is more. In the end a masterful performance. A promise of great new material on the way as well.

Rev Orange Peel    

Photos by Ivan Karczewski

Julia Deans

Kate Owen