Creators: Barb Jungr and Jenny Carr
This is going to be a downbeat show Barb Jungr jokes with her audience at the Crazy Coqs ahead of her latest tribute show featuring the works of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, but that’s understandable given the material. Put together during lockdown and relieved not to have to perform on Zoom any more, the affable Jungr uses Barb Jungr: Dylan and Cohen and Love to welcome the viewer into her admiration for these great musicians and the crazy, angry, passionate and intense experiences of love they express through their songs.
Co-created with Jenny Carr who provides accompaniment to Jungr on the piano, the show eschews typical biographical or chronological detail and opts for a theme instead, collecting together a variety of well-known and more obscure songs that work particularly well as a set. Across 75-minutes and 10 songs, split evenly between each artist, Jungr’s husky and varied vocal certainly does justice to them all.
These are of course long and often complex melodies to sing, several of them many minutes long which Jungr delivers with ease, taking their technical changes of pace, mood and melody in her stride. Some of the greatest moments in the show include the songs which also have plot and Jungr ensures that character and passages of dialogue are distinct in songs like Isis by Dylan which blends a country vocal with elaborate storytelling which, Jungr informs us, reflects Dylan’s turmoil during a marriage breakdown.
These insights and explanations help to open up the songs, merging information from Dylan and Cohen’s lives with stories from Jungr’s own past as she charts her 22-year obsession with the former. In a preface to a really beautiful rendition of I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You which opens on the porch of Dylan’s Malibu property, Jungr enchants the audience with a self-deprecating tale of trying to find that very house, blending her own experience with the lyrics and adding variety by pausing mid-tune to complete the anecdote, part of her warm style that includes the audience in the show.
Although given half the attention, there is much less on Cohen as an artist and what he means to the performer which is a shame for those seeking to understand why these two musicians have not only dominated Jungr’s career but belong together in a single show. That doesn’t stop the singer providing a powerful performance of penultimate song Dance Me to the End of Love which is full of verve, contrasting with the more wistful Hey That’s No Way to Say Goodbye which showcases Jungr’s vocal range and performance style.
A note or two within the performance about why these artists and this selection of songs would help anyone new to her work but Barb Jungr: Dylan and Cohen and Love has a great selection of songs and fans of all three artists will revel in gorgeous pieces like Dylan’s Forgetful Heart and Cohen’s expressive What Happens to the Heart which Jungr performs with feeling. Downbeat it may be, but Jungr’s show is certainly uplifting
Reviewed on 22 January and continues to tour