Barb Jungr - Live Review: The Beatles - New York Times
14 January 2016New York Times
Who among us isn't familiar with the refrain "Ah, look at all the lonely people" from the Beatles classic "Eleanor Rigby"? To hear it performed by the great British cabaret singer Barb Jungr and the Broadway musical director John McDaniel at Feinstein's/54 Below on Wednesday evening was to find it clarified as never before. The word "people" assumed a new gravity as Ms. Jungr adopted a darker, more emphatic voice, the better to remind us that the song's characters aren't quaint folksy sketches of everyday Britons in the 1960s but quietly suffering flesh-and-blood humans. Without the dressing of a string quartet that lent the original recording a classical gloss, the song was a bleak portrait of stoic common people.
"Eleanor Rigby" was a high point of the show, "Come Together: The Music of the Beatles," which the pair performed at the club last October and brought back on Wednesday for a thrilling encore performance. (Ms. Jungr has also previously explored the music of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.) In her ability to revitalize familiar songs by theatrically dramatizing the lyrics, Ms. Jungr has a magic touch. From within the most seemingly trivial love song, she uncovered a stunning depth and complexity of feeling. For a dedicated song aficionado, it was like finding gold in a well-worked mine.
This show had a personal component. Ms. Jungr, who grew up in England not far from Liverpool, recalled following the personal lives of the Fab Four with a breathless excitement. A suite of euphoric early love songs segued into more mature work that began with "Getting Better," whose narrator was once a wife-beater.
Ms. Jungr inserted a shock into the usually soothing ballad "Something" by impatiently shouting, "I don't know/I don't know" in answer to the question, "You're asking me will my love grow." For "The Fool on the Hill," her boldest performance, she became the title character, gazing toward heaven and tossing her head from side to side.
By the end of the evening, no corner of any song she had chosen was left unexplored.
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