Barb Jungr - Live in Sydney - Sydney Morning Herald
20 September 2007Sydney Morning Herald
SOME artists are squashed by the recording studio. They are filtered, homogenised and starched until deprived of their own essence: the part that communicates with an audience.
Barb Jungr has made good, well-recorded albums, but none comes close to the captivation she offers in person.
Anyone who can assemble a repertoire stretching from Richard Thompson to Brownie McGhee to Jacques Brel - and make it work - is doing something right, not to mention exposing the paucity of imagination most singers bring to the art of cabaret. Cabaret? It is probably the closest label for the remarkable Jungr, an English singer with a delicious sense of humour to back up her unique interpretative powers.
Heartbreak Hotel was neither post-Presley nor gothic-dark like the version by Diamanda Galas. It was slow and desolately sparse, yet the delivery was detached. Jungr made the song eerie by making it observational. Kentucky Rain was reinvented and reinvested with an emotional content that had been "blanded" out of it. Delicate but unrelenting rain-drop notes from the piano (Matthew Carey) intensified the forlornness, while Jungr probed beneath the song's skin, just as rain infiltrates beneath clothes.
Then she stepped up a notch, casting a siren's spell against spartan piano on McGhee's Rainy Day. She broadened her palette by scatting economically over Eric Bibb's Heading Home, before delivering the coup de grace: a fresh translation of Brel's Ne Me Quitte Pas, restored to the despairing injunction "Don't leave me", as opposed to the usual "If you go away". It ripped at every heart in the room and was the finest English version of this song I have heard. For an encore she again surprised with Ray Davies's Waterloo Sunset, also stripped down and reinvested with subtext and life.
Carey expertly performed the difficult task of playing little, and took a charming solo on I'll Be Your Baby Tonight.
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