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Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Monday 13th June 2016

Barb Jungr is making a very welcome return visit to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival with Hard Rain: The Songs Of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, a selection of the songs of these two influential songwriters. Jungr is an international cabaret success and she has a huge following here in Adelaide. I was informed that most of the CDs that were on sale for her two shows were sold after the Sunday performances, leaving a scant few for the Monday. This attests to the popularity of this amazing performer.

Jungr doesn't merely sing the songs, presenting cover versions of other people's work. These songs are given new arrangements and breathtaking interpretations. She has a reputation for her remarkable interpretations of Dylan's songs and now she has brought her talent to bear on the works of Cohen as well. Both writers' works are highly poetic, and that is precisely what she loves to explore.

She opened the performance with Dylan's It's Alright Ma, and anybody in the Space Theatre seeing her for the first time would have been immediately aware that this was going to be something exceptional. The rest of us were there because we already knew that. Jungr sings with her entire body, from facial expression, vast amounts of body language, and right down to her finger tips. It is clear to see that these are the external signs of intense internal emotion and intellect at work.

She was accompanied by Mark Fitzgibbons on piano who was obviously well versed in Jungr's unique phrasing and expressiveness, blending beautifully with her vocals as they worked their way through the philosophical and political works of Dylan and Cohen. This was Barb Jungr's response to the world's ills, addressed in many of the songs of both Dylan and Cohen. Dylan, of course, was one of the primary protest songwriters of the 1960s.

Dylan's Masters of War and Blind Willie McTell, oddly, a song that he thought little of, sat alongside Cohen's Who by Fire, The Future, and The Land of Plenty. The packed show offered Things Have Changed, First We Take Manhattan, Masters of War, 1000 Kisses Deep, and ended with Hard Rain, followed by the encore, Dylan's famous song, Blowin' in the Wind.

Every number was given a singular treatment that breathed new life into it and, with this fresh look at the songs, given a marked clarity and intensity, it was very apparent that they are, perhaps, even more relevant today then when they were written. Barb Jungr came to our Cabaret Festival a decade ago, and on every visit she has reintroduced us to songs that we thought that we knew well, showing how much more there is to them. I think it is safe to say that Adelaide will be calling for her to come back time and again to thrill us with her insight and vast talent.

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