“A Case of You” offers a rich vintage for connoisseurs of Joni Mitchell’s work and those interested in a sample tasting. Deborah Brennan on vocals and keyboards; guitarist Liam Garcia-Hardman and percussionist Chris Neale have done a superb job in adapting Mitchell’s music for a trio setting.
Brennan has a highly personal take on Joni Mitchell’s work. She is a confident performer, comfortable with the audience and identifies intimately with the joys of freedom and trials of rootlessness depicted in Mitchell’s songs.
This is best shown on the pairing of “Carey” and “California.” The band captures the upbeat swing of “Carey” with its exotic locations, hedonistic nights and happy-go-lucky characters. A dark mirror image is reflected in the homesickness and disillusionment of “California.” Brennan makes sure the audience doesn’t miss the lines “Reading the news and it sure looks bad/They won’t give peace a chance/That was just a dream some of us had.”
Brennan’s tender rendition of “Amelia” brings out the yearning in the song with pioneer pilot Amelia Earhart being truly rootless – a ghost of aviation and one whose mysterious fate has become newly topical with the controversy over photographs that may or may not show her in Japanese captivity just before World War Two.
By entwining her emotions so explicitly with the subjects of Mitchell’s songs, there’s a risk of Brennan over-sharing her personal life with the audience. It’s a risk she doesn’t avoid and indeed treats with some humour.
This is who she is and the show she wants to perform. Brennan’s personal engagement with Joni Mitchell’s music is the fuel that powers the show and lights it up. It’s demonstrated in her intense performance of the show’s title track “A Case of You.” More surprisingly, it shines through in “Both Sides Now.” “Both Sides Now” has always struck me as overly artificial with its’ balanced images and symmetries. However, Brennan finds the song’s emotional core in a moving, unadorned interpretation.
Liam Garcia-Hardman and Chris Neale provide strong musical support and credit should be given to the venue’s technical staff. Music shows on the Fringe are an acoustics lottery but the show I attended was faultless for sound quality.
In “A Case of You”, Deborah Brennan and her band testify that Joni Mitchell’s music isn’t a memory trip for the hippie generation but an enduring guide that can be packed for every journey.