Sunday, November 05, 2006

Time out for an evening with Donovan

Obama Barack was in Cleveland last night for a rally with Sherrod Brown, but I already had tickets to see someone very special to me, the one and only Donovan, kicking off a US tour in Ohio. With only three days left until election day, I needed time off for stress-relief. So I put on my best concert attire, topped off by a Sherrod Brown button and was ready for an evening of beautiful music.

My best Dono-pal and I travelled south to Mansfield, home of the beautiful and historic Renaissance Theatre, an intimate jewel box of a performance space. We had second row center orchestra seats. The small pit area in front of us was partitioned off, with special seating for less than two dozen people. Donovan's entrance was so entirely casual, I almost missed it! He was dressed in the similar attire to when we last saw him in Kent at the folk festival -- loose black shirt and pants -- a dramatic background to highlight his magnificent guitar Kelly.

The first few songs were accompanied by a percussionist on conga drums and an acoustic bass fiddle player -- they were both outstanding musicians. They left the stage as Donovan crossed to a small black platform, about a foot and a half high. My friend and I had been speculating as to the purpose of this platform. Was April Vetch going to make a guest appearance on it -- playing her fiddle and clogging at the same time? Well it turned out that Donovan used it to sit in semi-lotus position to sing his most intimate of songs. The Troubadour sang some of his most precious beginning songs: Try for the Sun, Josie, Ballad of Geraldine, The Little Tin Soldier, Sunny Goodge Street, Donna Donna, The Alamo, Sunny Goodge Street, Sand and Foam. Other precious songs were tucked into the set including Isle of Islay, Young Girl Blues, Lalena, and of course Catch the Wind. He sang a song I'd never heard -- in fact, he said it had never been recorded but was one that he wrote with Kelly when he first got the guitar. It was called "Promise."

At the interval, we chatted with a gentleman sitting next to us, who lived in this central Ohio region. He spoke -- with that distinct Ohio twang -- of going to concerts all his life, but never seeing Donovan before. He said that the concert was not at all what he had expected -- that it was like having "Donovan in your living room." That description immediately took hold in my imagination and for the rest of the concert I imagined I was at home with the lava lamp bouncing and glowing, the incense burning, and Donovan there sitting cross-legged on the floor sharing his amazing songs, gently chatting about their origins, and urging me to sing a long!

There were many sing-a-longs last night. It took the crowd awhile to warm up, but eventually they were in fine form. Happiness Runs was quite spectacular, as the gentlemen took their "la la la la" part very seriously, while the ladies happily chirped "happiness runs happiness runs" in counterpoint.

The concert began shortly after 8 PM with no opening act. There was a 20 minute intermission and then another long set with an encore with the show wrapping up at five until 11. What a long evening -- it went by as if we were all in a dream together oblivious of time. The music flowed and the communal warmth drew us all together. The Universal Soldier meant more now than it ever did to all of us in that theatre (which was located directly across from Republican headquarters) -- the song was accompanied by that special silence that comes with utter attentiveness, and ended with great affirmative applause and cheers from the audience.

Donovan heads to Buffalo next, then travels up and down the eastern seaboard throughout the month of November. More concert information here. Enjoy Donovan in your living room soon!


Anonymous said...

Great article. I am seeing him perform on the 26th of November in FL. I hope its as good as you described. Cheers

Village Green said...

You won't be disappointed, I'm sure. Especially if you like the really early stuff. Get out your "Fairytale" album to prepare!