Barb Jungr flashed a don’t-mess-with-me glare, scanned the audience’s faces across the Powerhouse’s intimate black-walled venue like an enraged school-teacher sniffing out a culprit. And, in an instant gained everyone’s attention. Jungr overflows with intensity, she’s a fireball, a force to be reckoned with and with good reason, since she’s unafraid to sing with such heart-jangling and white-hot emotion she appears at times to be hanging by a thread on the brink of madness.
Sixty something, she shimmies, shakes, prowls the stage, carves up the air with her arms mid performance and dances with age-defying verve. Ageists beware, for Jungr, maybe a self-deprecating clown spewing ad-libbed, funny jokes, but, it takes masses of courage, experience, verve and yes a great deal of hide to cover landmark anthems by two of the greatest living male American singer-songwriters.
Actually, the word ‘cover’ doesn’t really apply, because Jungr invests Dylan and Cohen’s anthems with her own, highly individualized, lyrical spin stressing phrases and words, which Dylan or Cohen have understated, with extroverted pathos. It may not always be possible to ‘like’ her dramatized, belted take on standards like, ‘It’s Alright Ma’ and over stylized ‘Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall,’ but she makes the listener sit up and attend to nuances in the lyrics and music that may have previously gone unnoticed.
Jungr isn’t chanelling Dylan and Cohen, but rather casts them in a new light, she doffs her cap at them certainly yet makes the music her own. It’s impossible to fault her pzazz, sincerity and devotion to the material even if she isn’t so keen on Dylan the man, ‘He has this thin, wiry, feral thing going on.’ Her voice is expressive with a big range, and she injects masses of colour, pathos, power and moments of surprise to the items in her song list – which includes ‘Everybody Knows,’ ‘Land of Berlin,’ and a ‘1000 Kisses Deep’ – along the way.
Smart too in her choice of pianist because John Thorn provided chunky, solid and easeful grooves and he provided admirable support with his funky, smoking piano and telling harmonic notes in slower numbers glowed.
Many have covered Dylan’s iconic hits, most successfully Jimi Hendrix in his version of ‘All Along The Watchtower.’ Other interpreters among the many include The Waifs, Nina Simone, The Neville Brothers, Lucinda Williams, Marianne Faithful, The Pretenders and more recently Adele in, ‘Make You Feel My Love.’
This reviewer pined for Dylan’s muttered streams of mumbled invective in ‘Masters of War’ and was a touch repelled by Jungr’s version of ‘scat’ which doesn’t place her voice in the best light, yet on balance, I enjoyed Jungr’s hit em’ hard, fast-paced show which braids great songs, humour and seasoned experience into a coherent and easily digested whole.
Hard Rain: The songs of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen
Queensland Cabaret Festival, Visy Theatre, The Powerhouse
Friday 3rd June
The Byron Theatre
Saturday 4 June 2016
Vivid Festival, The Basement
Tuesday 7 June 2016
Wednesday 8 June 2016
Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Thursday 9 - Monday 13 June 2016
The Bird’s Basement
Thursday 16 & Friday 17 June 2016
Gillian Wills is the author of Elvis and Me: How a world-weary musician and a broken racehorse rescued each other, Finch Publishing.