Taking a pre-existing work of art and reimagining it in another style is as old a practice as art itself; the key, though, lies in whether the artist chooses to remain completely faithful to the original, or turn it on its head and make something entirely new.
Dreamy electro-pop group Arc Iris chose to focus on the latter for their recent six-stop tour, dedicated entirely to reimagining and reworking Joni Mitchell’s pivotal album Blue. The tour began on June 22 in New York, on the 46th anniversary of the album’s release, and concluded on July 22 in the band’s home state of Rhode Island.
Despite playing a shorter-than-usual set, not much longer than the runtime of the original album, Arc Iris brought the kind of otherworldly instrumentation they are best known for into each track. Songs that were originally stripped bare by no more than Mitchell’s voice and a few instruments were suddenly full of swirling guitar chords, smooth drum fills, and electronic soundscapes. Arc Iris made each song their own without taking away a single ounce of the musical importance of the original work. That’s a hard feat–this was clearly Mitchell’s work as well as a distinct Arc Iris show.
Vocalist Jocie Adams stood powerful center-stage in her bodysuit and matching cape, evoking the crooning, yet pleading, lyrics Mitchell is best known for; however, going into these shows expecting to be able to compare them to the original will inevitably fall flat. This is far from a problem, though, and is the very nature of a re-imagining.
Perhaps the most immediately recognizable song was their upbeat, popish cover of “California,” complete with Adams hitting trigger pads to bring forth backing vocal samples during the chorus. Those in attendance who were unfamiliar with the album were not disappointed, as it was still very much an Arc Iris show. Fans of Blue, conversely, found delight in recognizing melodies, lines of lyrics, and instrumentation that brought them back to Mitchell’s original work.