BOTTOM LINE: A rare chance to catch the legendary cabaret singer in New York.
Timed for the Winter Solstice and Christmas week, British songbird Barb Jungr drops into town for a very short engagement, her only local appearance this year. For those accustomed to cabaret shows at Below 54 or The Carlyle, it might seem a little strange to sit in a darkened theatre. But wearing a simple black dress and colourful jewelry, Jungr’s charm and humour were very much in evidence in the intimate space. Introducing herself and the show with a bit of bawdiness she joked, “Tracy (Stark, her accompanist) and I are actually night workers.” She added of her time in London: “I used to walk across Holland Park at night and I felt very safe because of the coppers. They were all there with their pants around their knees.”
As someone who is unfamiliar with Jungr and not a cabaret aficionado, I appreciated hearing about some of her childhood moments and a little back story to certain songs and artists. She grew up in Stockport on the music of the '60s and told the audience, “only the dullest girls in school loved the Beatles. The smart girls liked the Who. And now for a Beatles song,” which was a slower tempo take of "The Night Before."
Jungr is known for singing versions of songs by a wide range of performers from rock to country stars and came with a very diverse set list. We were treated to Springsteen’s "Dancing in the Dark" and Todd Rundgren’s "I Saw the Light." Of Rundgren she swooned, “he’s a man who wears leather pants. And he had such lovely, lovely straight hair.” Elaborating on the tune she said it was about first love and then asked if anyone was there with one. In response to the silence from the crowd she said there had been no one all week. But at a show in Liverpool she encountered a couple in matching track suits who had said yes and Jungr made a face to express the disdain the couple expressed for each other.
One of the highlights of the show was when she got to Andy Williams, whose music she’d heard at home. She described him as a crooner and peevishly remarked that programs like American Idol look down on crooning. She then led the audience in a sing-along of "Can’t Get Used to Losing You," feeding the lyrics to those of us who didn’t know it, although most in the room did.
Jungr has done multiple albums of Dylan songs and is famous for her interpretations of his catalog. Before her encore she performed a spirited "Tangled Up in Blue." Her last song, appropriately for the holidays, was a lovely Garland-tinged "Have Yourself a Merry List Christmas."
The show is closing this weekend and although Jungr will have a new Dylan and Leonard Cohen album to promote next year, this will be your only opportunity to catch her locally for some time.