Jan Elliott and Caitlin Smith sing Joni Mitchell – Pah Homestead: November 19, 2023

We heard the music of Joni Mitchell from both sides last night as Jan Elliott and Caitlin Smith put their stamp on the songs of Joni Mitchell at Auckland’s Pah Homestead.

With Joni having just turned 80 and back performing after being laid low by a brain aneurysm, what better way to celebrate than to hear a couple of Kiwi fans singing her praises and her songs.

The cosy confines of Pah Homestead hold maybe 90 folks and the late Sunday show is perfect as Jan, Caitlin and guitarist Cadzow Cossar set up in front of the leafy view of the lawn.

Jan Elliott takes a more “traditional” approach to Joni. Her favourite album is 1974’s Court and Spark though she gets things started with Chelsea Morning and Big Yellow Taxi.

I’m pretty sure Caitlin’s fave Joni album is Blue, (correction: Caitlin says, My fave Joni albums R a tie between For the Roses & Hissing of Summer Lawns) but tonight she’s taking a walk on the jazzy side beginning with the title song from 1976’s Hejira (my personal fave). While Jan’s performances are guitar based, Caitlin in behind the piano and her playing is right up there with her singing, and that’s saying something.

I’m always harping on about how Brett Adams is New Zealand’s best guitarist and I have to say I feel the same way about Caitlin as a vocalist. Tonight she is on fire, digging deep into Joni’s lyrics and in to her soul. She refers to herself as “feral”.

During the first set Caitlin also tackles The Tea Leaf Prophecy and Chinese Café/Unchained Melody. All three performances are breath-taking. And kudos to guitarist Cadzow who navigates those notorious chord changes with apparent ease.

After a brief break, Jan returns to Court and  Spark by way of Just Like This Train. While Jan may not be as an adventurous interpreter as Caitlin, the two vocalists present a satisfying yin and yang in their approaches.

There is plenty of Joni-related banter between tunes, both singers geeking out on trivia about the songs and about Joni, with the audience happy to chime in from time to time.

The highlight for me was Caitlin’s Woodstock. It’s a song we’ve all heard hundreds of times, but never like this. You could hear a pin drop at the end of it.

Finally, The Circle Game brought all the voices together and Jan, Caitlin and everyone in the room sang along.

Will we ever get any new songs from Joni? Who knows. But the legacy she has already left is something few songwriters can come close to.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery:

Set 1:

  1. Chelsea Morning (Jan)
  2. Big Yellow Taxi (Jan)
  3. Heijira (Caitlin)
  4. Free Man In Paris (Jan)
  5. The Tea Leaf Prophecy (Lay Down Your Arms) (Caitlin)
  6. People’s Parties (Jan)
  7. Chinese Café/Unchained Melody (Caitlin)

Set 2:

  1. Just Like This Train (Jan)
  2. A Case Of You (Caitlin)
  3. Raised On Robbery (Jan)
  4. Woodstock (Caitlin)
  5. Help Me (Jan)
  6. Circle Game (All)