BARB JUNGR SINGS BOB DYLAN at the Crazy Coqs
“the emotion of her delivery matching the resonance of the lyrics
It is often considered a brave choice to rework songs that, for most people, are etched into their memory by the original artist. This is probably most true of Bob Dylan, one of the most significant singer songwriters who, at eighty-one, is about to appear at the London Palladium. Barb Jungr is one of those brave souls who has tackled Dylan. That makes it sound like a challenge, but Jungr approaches the vast catalogue with a purer motive. It is twenty years since the release of her album ‘Every Grain of Sand: Barb Jungr sings Bob Dylan’. Since then, she has said that “my love for the work of Bob Dylan has simply magnified exponentially”. This love and respect rings loud and clear throughout her set at Crazy Coqs. If anything, she has more respect for the material than the writer himself. Iconic phrases thrown away by Dylan are picked up by Jungr and delivered to us with startling clarity, originality and passion.
After opening the evening with a swinging, jazzy, staccato ‘Tangled Up in Blue’, she slips into her role of raconteur. Witty, self-deprecating and unafraid to be ‘naughty’ she is a consummate cabaret performer as well as a fine singer. At one point (jokingly) berating her accompanist, musical director and co-arranger Jenny Carr for not telling her to “shut up and get on with the show”. ‘If Not for You’ follows – Dylan’s love song for his first wife; “written when he was happy” quips Jungr, “a very short period”.
Over the next hour Jungr mixes the well-known with the lesser known, the emotion of her delivery matching the resonance of the lyrics. Dylan’s genius, she points out, is that his songs – some of which were written decades ago – reflect the world we live in today. ‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’ is sixty years old but could have been written yesterday and Jungr delivers it with a soaring intensity; a mix of fury and affection – that has us on the edge of our seats.
Carr’s varied piano arrangements reflect the diverse moods of the numbers, complementing the personality and poignancy of Jungr’s singing. From the gospel tinged ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ to the bluesy ‘Mississippi’ and through to the gorgeous, almost whispered love songs, of which Dylan is the finest exponent. ‘I Want You’ is followed by the achingly delicate ‘Sara’.
As her hour on the stage is drawing to a close, Jungr knows we’re not going to let her get away without an encore. “I’m not going off and coming back on” she tells us before singing us out with the lilting ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’. Jungr is the perfect channel through which to experience the work of Dylan. Of course, in a couple of days you can catch the real deal at the Palladium. There are a few tickets left, so if you have a few hundred quid to spare you could gamble it on one of his famously unpredictable performances. Jungr’s show is far from being a gamble – it’s a sure-fire hit.
Critical opinion of a Dylan gig is famously divided. It has been said that ‘it is difficult to understand what he is doing on stage’, while he has been slated (justifiably or not is another debate) for rendering “the greatest lyrics ever written so that they are effectively unrecognisable”. This charge could never be laid on Barb Jungr, whose singing technique is flawless, passionate and respectful. A triumph.
Reviewed on 14th October 2022
by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Steve Ullathorne
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