Barb Jungr - Man in the Long Black Coat Live in NY - New York Times
It may sound outlandish: a British female cabaret singer interpreting Bob Dylan accompanied by a piano instead of a guitar. But Barb Jungr, a fearless iconoclast who dives into the deepest waters of popular song to wrest exotic treasure from the ocean floor, delivered a fiery personal tutorial on Mr. Dylan at Tuesday's opening-night performance of her show "Man in the Long Black Coat" at the Metropolitan Room.
Her subject, she observed wryly in her preface to "Things Have Changed," a mysterious song from the movie "Wonder Boys," is "not really in touch with his feminine side." What woman, she asked mischievously, could relate to lines like "Feel like falling in love with the first woman I meet/Putting her in a wheelbarrow and wheeling her down the street?" Good question.
Ms. Jungr's ebullient comic sensibility is far removed from Mr. Dylan's grim-reaper attitude. True: there is plenty of humor in Dylan, but it's often edged with contempt. Ms. Jungr can build up a head of rage, but arrogance and outright cruelty are barely discernible in her expressive arsenal.
A sneering put-down like "It Ain't Me Babe," a song that she acknowledged has a mean kick in its suggestion that the narrator sending away a lover has another woman in his bed, was softened, its title phrase delivered in a tender, near-whisper. "Like a Rolling Stone" was scaled back from a triumphal rant into a more reflective conversational monologue.
The high points of a show that steadily built in intensity were Ms. Jungr's renditions of "Sara," arguably Mr. Dylan's greatest love song, with its indelible images of the beloved: "Scorpio sphinx in a calico dress," "radiant jewel, mystical wife." It brought out the warmth and beauty of Ms. Jungr's quieter voice.
She uses her entire body to interpret lyrics, and there were moments on Tuesday when she flailed around the stage as though wrestling with a song in her effort to inhabit its essence. The show reached a ferocious peak with her rendition of "Blind Willie McTell," Dylan's evocation of the bluesman as a seer whose voice and vision encapsulate the history of slavery and its legacy of suffering.
Neither Ms. Jungr nor her pianist, Tracy Stark, pretended to be blues musicians. They did it their way, and it landed with an explosion.
Barb Jungr continues through Oct. 29 at the Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street, Manhattan; (212) 206-0440, metropolitanroom.com.