fri 05/06/2020

Donovan, London Palladium | reviews, news & interviews

Donovan, London Palladium

Donovan, London Palladium

Pixie-like troubadour celebrates his 70th birthday

Donovan, 70 years old and 50 years in the music biz

"Sunshine came softly through my window today..." How fortuitous that veteran Scottish tunestrel Donovan should have picked London's glorious first day of summer to stage his "Beat Cafe" event at the Palladium. The plan was to rove across his back catalogue to celebrate his 70th birthday (which actually falls on Tuesday) as well as his half-century in the music business.

The cavernous Palladium space wasn't packed out, but the loquacious and ever-exuberant troubadour didn't seem to have noticed as he bustled about the stage like a small pixie with an outsized guitar. He clearly has a healthy respect for his own significance in the big picture of pop history, and doesn't mind telling his fans how influential he has been as a pioneer of acoustic guitar styles (he's a pretty nifty player, but he's no Bert Jansch).

But Donovan (pictured right, back in the day) has penned an impressively durable cluster of hits that can still take you swirling back to the dope-and-kaftans days of the Carnaby-delic Sixties. Introducing "Sunny Goodge Street", he recalled how he used to come down to the West End and buy pot in a place near the Palladium called Finch's. A long and rambling yarn about a seaside gig where he played alongside The Who, The Hollies and the Walker Brothers and hid from rapacious fans with Peter Noone from Herman's Hermits would have given the late Ronnie Corbett a run for his story-telling money.

His shrewdest move was to have brought along an excellent band. This was a sort of jazz-pop trio, led by pianist John Cameron (who's been a musical partner of Donovan's for aeons) and ably completed by drummer Gavin Harrison and standup bassist Bernard O'Neill (subbing for an indisposed Danny Thompson). Donovan the solo minstrel sounded good enough playing folkie stalwarts like "Catch the Wind" (his 1965 debut hit which prompted not entirely helpful Dylan comparisons), but the band added immeasurably to pieces like "Jennifer Juniper", "Season of the Witch" or the opener, "There Is a Mountain". The Allman Brothers used to turn the last of these into a 20-minute jam, but the Cameron trio only needed three or four to tweeze out an array of accents and nuances. Their ability to elide effortlessly between time signatures was a marvel to behold.

You name it, it was probably here – "Universal Soldier", "Josie", "Sunshine Superman", and a cunningly catchy "Mellow Yellow".  "Please Don't Bend", from the Rick Rubin-produced Sutras album, hinted that a rummage round on Spotify might be in order. A long strange trip, but Donovan seems to have weathered it better than most. 

Donovan's durable cluster of hits can still take you swirling back to the Carnaby-delic Sixties


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Donovan was good in his day and now is a sad bluffer and the best guitar played was by that classical player in the first half.

John Lennon called him Dylavon I now know why

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