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SJD - Gig Review: SJD w/ Mousey @ Space Academy, Christchurch - 24/06/2023

25 Jun 2023 // A review by Peter K Malthus

I had a double treat tonight of not only being sent to experience a fantastic gig, but getting to hang out in one of my favourite Christchurch venues. If you've not yet been to Space Academy and tried their pizza, you are doing yourself a gross disservice, I tell you. It was a perfect setting for the sold-out show.

SJD (Sean James Donnelly) is currently touring the country in support of his new album Sweetheart, his ninth since 1998's debut 3. For the Christchurch show, support came in the form of Mousey.

A happily relaxed and comfortable Mousey took the stage, resplendent in white, in stark contrast to her very dark hair. A juxtaposition of light and darkness perfectly reflective of similar contrasts in her own music, and carried with a timeless elegance. Throughout the set, vocally I often found myself drawing comparisons to Vera Lynn and Patsy Cline, but with a modern and frequently darker dynamic.

The first song was a new one, a sparse guitar line over a minimal beat providing the backing to strong and thoughtful vocals. If You Really Loved Me from 2019's Lemon Law was next, a beautiful ballad with a dark twist, a clear strength in Mousey's songwriting, also ably demonstrated by Rachel from 2022's My Friends. The hauntingly lovely set seemed over too quickly, Mousey rounding things off with a last sip of wine, followed by another gorgeous new song. Darkness and light expertly woven together into sweet yet deep songs. Magnificent.

A nice quick change-over saw SJD and band ready to bring the magic to the eager crowd, and that's precisely what they did for the next 90-odd minutes. Superman, You're Crying from the 2004 album Southern Lights was first up, with a low atmospheric intro that softly blooms into rich layers of warmth and light: silky vocal harmonies, delicate guitar lines, rolling waves of keys. Bad Karma In Yokohama had a delightfully upbeat psychedelic vibe, lightly infused with funk. The Lizard Kings had a suitably darker feel, followed by Helensville almost lazily carrying us away to drift on cloud nine.

It must be difficult for an artist to choose which songs to leave out of a set when there is such a wealth of back catalogue to choose from, and we had two more older gems before a quickfire round of three from new album Sweetheart, I Just Can't WaitMy Exploding Head, and lead single You Are The Movement. Another slightly older one in Two Bodies from 2007's Songs From A Dictaphone before what was, for me, the evening's highlight. Waterhole is from Sweetheart, and is just utterly gorgeous. It has an almost mournful feel of an old-time Spiritual, with a big gang vocal. The sweetly dragging rhythm has a wonderful guitar accompaniment, underneath huge and ethereal vocals that became an audience-participation sing-along. An atmospherically moving song... about the simple joy of spending a good day with a great friend. Blissfully beautiful.

Another decent handful of older tracks came out to play, culminating in a rendition of  I Am The Radio being slowly and masterfully brought to a close with skillfully delivered vocal harmonies. The band then left the stage... only to quickly return with the 2007 hit Beautiful Haze, and Let Me Go Home, an apt title for a set closer, and another new one from Sweetheart.

SJD is a master craftsman with a seasoned and commanding stage presence. Naturally, he has surrounded himself with top-class musicians, to form a tight, slick, polished and superbly competent band. They brought beauty and wonder with them into Space Academy, and had the whole audience spell-bound. The Sweetheart tour continues with dates in Auckland and Wellington, make sure you don't miss out.


About SJD

Sean Donnelly is an award-winning musician/composer currently residing in Dunedin under the Mozart Fellowship at Otago University.

Sean Donnelly has released eight albums under the nom-de-plume SJD since 1998, with many nominated for bNets, Aotearoa Music Awards, the Taite Prize and the APRA Silver Scroll - some winning too! While primarily a solo project SJD has had a long history of collaborating with James Duncan, Sandy Mill, and Chris 'O Connor.

A celebrated producer as well, Sean has worked with Don McGlashan on 2006’s Warm Hand, and 2009’s Marvellous Year. In 2011, Sean joined the Pajama Club, with Neil Finn, Sharon Finn, and Alana Skyring. He produced their eponymous debut and toured with the group Aotearoa, Australia, and the United States of America.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for SJD


Year: 2022
Type: Album
Saint John Divine
Year: 2015
Type: Album
Elastic Wasteland
Year: 2012
Type: Album
Dayglo Spectres
Year: 2008
Type: Album
Songs From A Dictaphone
Year: 2007
Type: Album
Southern Lights Pic n Mix Version
Year: 2005
Type: Album
Southern Lights
Year: 2004
Type: Album
Lost Soul Music
Year: 2001
Type: Album
Year: 1999
Type: EP

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