BWW Review: HARD RAIN: BARB JUNGR SINGS DYLAN AND COHEN, Live At Zédel

BWW Review: HARD RAIN: BARB JUNGR SINGS DYLAN AND COHEN, Live At ZédelBWW Review: HARD RAIN: BARB JUNGR SINGS DYLAN AND COHEN, Live At ZédelCelebrated performer Barb Jungr put this collection of songs together a couple of years ago (alongside long-time collaborator and pianist, Simon Wallace) and has been taking the songs across the UK and the US, amongst other places, as well as appearing on the bill of the Art of Protest cabaret at The Donmar Warehouse earlier this year. Jungr describes the show as "hundreds and hundreds of words packed together incomprehensibly", hoping to show the nice side of Dylan and the nastiness of Cohen.

This show forms part of the EFG London Jazz Festival, so it is Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen as you wouldn't normally hear them - though, as demonstrated by last year's Nobel Prize committee, it's the words that hold most weight as far as these artists are concerned. What is so remarkable is that some of these songs were written 30-50 years ago, but retain a startling relevance to events we're experiencing now.

Bob Dylan's "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" contains the line, "But even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked" - both a terrible mental image ("That's an unpleasant thought", Jungr interjected) and also a call for accountability and transparency. It was a fantastic way to open the show, setting the tone for the rest of the evening. Whilst that song is over 50 years old, it chimes with the more recent "Things Have Changed" (particularly "people are crazy, times are strange"); we were also treated to its B-side, "Blind Willie McTell", with a superb harmonica solo from Jungr.

"The poor stay poor, the rich get rich, that's how it goes" from Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows" tells an unpleasant truth in times of continuing austerity, though the song's innate dark humour makes it an ideal choice for a performer who has such comedic sensibilities. We were given the more pessimistic side of Cohen, though late on in the set "The Land of Plenty" provided a glimmer of hope and optimism - Jungr easily enticed the crowd into chorusing "May the lights in The Land of Plenty..." before she finished the line "...shine on the truth some day".

Other highlights included "Chimes of Freedom", which Jungr believes is a piece of work that justifies Dylan's Nobel Prize on its own, and "Who By Fire" - a song that she now looks at differently following Cohen's death in 2016. The show's title song, "Hard Rain", was a rousing finale that Jungr joked that she'd like to have performed at "the most important inauguration of all" that America recently experienced - and a set like this could only be closed with an encore of "Blowin' in the Wind".

Barb Jungr spent the early part of her career on the alternative cabaret circuit, and that influence seems to have stayed with her to this day; she has a laidback approach that suits their style of jazz (Wallace on piano and Davide Mantovani on double bass), whilst remaining incredibly engaged and very, very funny. Jungr has a charismatic stage presence, with a knack for creating a memorable show.

Barb Jungr's Hard Rain was at Live at Zédel on 15 November as part of the London Jazz Festival


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