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Gig Review: Atomic: Women of Rock @ The Civic, Auckland - 11/11/2023

13 Nov 2023 // A review by roger.bowie

What a feast of nostalgia we’ve had from Liberty Stage (Simone Williams) these past few years, as New Zealand’s finest have Come Together to cover the classic albums which made the soundtracks of our youth. In addition to this, there have also been special tributes like Tami Neilson’s rock ‘n roll party with Dinah Lee, just last month.

Tonight, we have another slice of history with Atomic, Hailing the Pioneering Women of Rock. Five great Kiwi singers singing twenty-four great songs made famous by nine great female rockers from the 60's, 70's and 80's. 

Who do we have? Julia Deans (Fur Patrol), Dianne Swann (The Bads, When the Cat’s Away), Boh Runga (Stellar), Gussie Larkin (Mermaidens) and Jazmine Mary.

Who do they cover? Four songs from Blondie, four from the Pretenders, four from the Eurythmics, three from Joan Jett, three from Patti Smith, two from Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane, and one each from Siouxie & the Banshees, Joan Armatrading, Heart and the Bangles.

It’s 1978 when Blondie released Parallel Lines, tonight the show opens with Gussie singing Heart of Glass. Then two songs from Boh, looking and sounding stellar, the fabulous Brass in Pocket from the Pretenders 1979 debut, followed by Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation (Joan Jett was born Joan Larkin, would you believe). Gussie Larkin’s back with Hong Kong Garden, Siouxie’s 1978 single about the Chinese Restaurant she used to frequent and the skinheads who abused the owners. Julia enters the fray with Blondie’s Dreaming from 1979 and then Dianne with the first of two Patti Smith songs, Dancing Barefoot from 1979, and her epic version of Van Morrison’s Gloria merged with her poem Oath, which closes out the first set. Dianne was born to sing Patti. In between these two songs we get Back on the Chain Gang from the Pretenders’ Learning to Crawl (Dianne), a Joan Armatrading song from 1980, Me Myself, I was sung by Boh, before Jazmine Mary steps up to lead the first Eurythmics’ number Love is a Stranger then hammers us with 1967’s Somebody to Love.

Whew!

Every one of these singers takes turns on rhythm guitar, while behind them is another star-studded band comprising Steph Brown (Lips) on keys, Karen Hu on drums, the legendary Mareea Paterson (Tadpole and Veruca Salt) on bass and Valkyrie’s Rebel Reid on lead guitar.

This is not guitar hero rock, it’s just solid rock (Precious), pop rock (Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), a little rap rock (Rapture), some anthem rock (I Love Rock ‘n Roll) and high-pitched frantic rock as in Barracuda. Did you know that Joan Jett recorded the Arrows’ I Love Rock ‘n Roll with two of the Sex Pistols? Did you know that Patti Smith’s Because the Night was given to her by Bruce Springsteen? And that Joan Jett also covered Tommy James and the Shondells 60's hit Crimson and Clover? Did you know that White Rabbit is the world’s greatest ever short song? I said that, and no, Nicole, it’s not about Alice in Wonderland, well…it is… kind of… more like Grace in Wonderland. Jazmine Mary is so, so slick with this one. And of course, you know that Annie Lennox has one of the most powerful voices of rock, so Boh and Julia and Dianne have to work really hard to make the range, but they nailed it.

Actually, this is not all those sorts of rock, it’s just a blast from the past, a lunge into legend, an explosion of rhythm and vibe, in short, it’s just Atomic. 

Until it’s over, and Julia goes solo with the Pretender’s most poignant, beautiful song, Hymn to Her. Then finally the stage erupts in a frenzy of disco-dance disorder as Gussie tells us to Walk Like an Egyptian and we do. 

Best concert ever, says Nicole, and the last time she said that was a month ago with Tami and Dinah. But where was Pat Benatar? Coming next year, says Simone, so that’s a scoop!

 

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