Donovan So Mellow
Donovan Live At The Downtown (photo: Ernie)

Donovan Live At The Downtown July 10, 2003


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The set list:

  • The Enchanted Gypsy
  • Catch the Wind
  • Little Tin Soldier
  • Universal Soldier
  • Ballad of Geraldine
  • Colours
  • Sunshine Superman
  • Jennifer Juniper
  • Refugee of Love
  • Josie
  • Wear Your Love Like Heaven
  • The Promise
  • Lalena
 
  • There Is a Mountain
  • Guinevere
  • Hurdy Gurdy Man
  • Susan on the West Coast Waiting
  • Mellow Yellow


  • (Encore)
  • Atlantis
  • Season of the Witch
  • Goo Goo Barabajagal (Love Is Hot)


A Brief Review

It almost goes without saying that The Downtown is far from the ideal Donovan concert venue, nearly the polar opposite of At The Tabernacle, a dark, crowded, almost oppressive bar setting with about 100 people in expensive VIP seating in two locations, one cabaret style right up against the stage where we just about sat in each others' laps (my wife Mary and I sat about ten feet from Donovan at one of the closest tables) and another VIP section further back in the dark, and maybe 350 literally standing packed like proverbial sardines for four hours for the show. While we hated the venue and agree with many we've spoken with that Donovan should appear in concert halls like At The Tabernacle (I'm pulling for Sanders Theatre in Harvard Sq...), we nonetheless thought that he mesmerized everyone and had them all singing along and in high spirits all night. You can see from the set list that he did a mix of big hits (some rather nicely reinterpreted), great early songs (from the pre-Micky Most days), and a couple of newer songs.

Donovan followed a pleasant, engaging, if less than stellar young performer named Blake Ian (whose 2000 cd "the blake ian theory" has garnered good reviews), and within three chords you knew you were once again in the presence of a true master. Despite the horrid setting, Donovan was energetic, lively, and engaging, and really interacted with the audience (at several points in the show he remembered those in the way back of the venue who could hardly see him, pointing to them and calling out to them several times).

He told several stories, including a long one which was really two-in-one about Country Joe McDonald and Jim Capaldi (well, really Jim Capaldi's jacket, which apparently Jim wore constantly and even slept in back in the day: seems a couple of years ago Donovan was at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with Country Joe McDonald, and Joe pointed to the jacket and said, "how do we know that's the real jacket?" and Don replied, "because I was there when Jim rolled this huge English joint with seeds and hashish, and the seeds exploded and the hash fell on his lapel and burned it," and Don pointed to the lapel and said "see? there's the burn spot!" [story greatly shortened]).

Another highlight was when he told the background story to "Mellow Yellow," which I have never heard before. Seems he was always baffled by the huge interest the song stirred in the rumor of smoking banana skins, which he had never heard of. Well, during this same Rock & Roll Hall of Fame visit, Country Joe says to him, "You know, Don, the smoking banana peels thing was all my doing." Don asked what he meant, and Joe said that one day in San Francisco he thought it would be a kick if he got the straights thinking that hippies were getting high smoking banana skins, so he rigged this truck to look like a big banana and drove it around San Francisco spreading the message. Well, he said that would've been the end of it, but the very next week Don released Mellow Yellow and the story suddenly exploded and stuck.

All through the evening Don told great "back then" stories and a few newer ones. He transformed what was, to my eyes, a dive of a bar, and the transformation began with the very first notes he picked on the guitar. I've seen him do this before, back in the mid-80's on a Boston Harbor "Bud Light" cruise. (In case you don't know, these cruises usually feature loud rock bands and are always crowded--people literally standing up against one another, with scarce a hand's breadth between body parts. Anything but a Donovan scene--you know, the oriental rug on the stage, flowers, all that.) But Don transfixed that 20-something crowd then, and did so last night as well.

Mary and I got a chance to chat with him briefly afterwards, and he told me that he liked the website I put up in honor of his performance last year At The Tabernacle in New Jersey (hey, that's this site, man!), which of course made me feel good. Now if only we can get him out of the bars and into more halls like At The Tabernacle....

More photos in the Downtown Photo Gallery.






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