Review: Donovan at The Everyman – Cork

If 2022 had a descriptor, it would be the year of making up for lost time. For the past two years, classic rock fans experienced delayed and cancelled shows – and understandably so since they’re all getting up there in age with many in their 70s and 80s, but slowly but surely classic rockers hit the road again to do what they love: playing shows to crowds of passionate fans. In recent days, there have been many losses in classic rock: Ronnie Hawkins, Alan White, Andy Fletcher, and Vangelis all died this month, May 2022. Like what happened to Old Hollywood a few decades back, classic rock is going through the same thing now, so it’s important to preserve the memories of classic rock: show and share your love of the music and go and see these legends while you still can. Many of them still put on great shows, like Donovan did at the Everyman in Cork on 29 May. 

I am not as active on Facebook as I used to be, but a couple times this year I scrolled at the right time and saw that Donovan was playing shows again and with Cork being his home, he wanted to give back to the people of Cork and play shows all over the county. Recently, he and his wife, Linda Lawrence, were honoured and made honorary Corkonians, so it’s only right that he play some shows in his adopted home. Throughout the show, he shows so much love for Ireland, its tradition of poetry, the people, and of course the music. During the show he paid tribute to one of his biggest inspirations and favourite writers, William Butler Yeats, singing “The Song of Wandering Aengus”. Generally speaking, he loves all things Celtic: Scottish, Irish, and Welsh.

Some photos I took before the show, plus some selfies because why not?

The opening act was his step-grandson and Brian Jones’ grandson, Cork based musician Joolz Jones. It was a solo set with just him and his acoustic guitar, MTV Unplugged style. It’s a great way to hear the songs and with the Everyman being a small venue, it feels like a living room concert and you feel surrounded by the music.

Joolz Jones opened for Donovan

The 60s was a great time for folk music and each side of the Atlantic contributed some great music. Obviously Bob Dylan’s a great gateway to the genre, but if you want Britain’s equivalent, that’s Donovan. Both are legendary and Donovan deserves to be talked about as much as Bob Dylan. Don’t just take it from me, John Lennon said it in 1968: “ Donovan is as important and influential as Bob Dylan and we are… listen, the man’s a poet.” Just listen to his discography from the 60s, it’s life changing. Donovan also has an amazing story: Born in Glasgow, of half Irish descent, a polio survivor, a poet, a songwriter, a storyteller, a great fingerstyle and crosspicking guitarist, a legend! Someone who has an appreciation for music all over the world from India to America to the Celtic world, and embodies what my blog The Diversity of Classic Rock is all about.

Donovan played for about an hour and a half but because folk songs are usually quite short, he could pack in a lot of songs into the setlist and even more impressive: he doesn’t have a set list, he plays all the songs by memory! In between some of the songs he told stories about the 60s and crediting people he collaborated with such as George Harrison, who helped write the classic “Hurdy Gurdy Man” and Shawn Phillips who wrote, The Little Tin Soldier, based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. The latter song happens to be on the appropriately titled album Fairy Tale. An autographed coloured vinyl reissue of this album was available for sale at the merch stand and quite a few of the songs on the set list were from this album like The Universal Soldier, Sunny Goodge Street, Colours, Candy Man, and The Ballad of Geraldine. He also told stories of his travels with his friend Gypsy Dave, travelling to the pacific coast in Mexico and being inspired by the music of the country, his emerald green guitar custom made by famous luthier Danny Ferrington – it’s called Kelly and named and designed after the Book of Kells – he tells a story about how he would go to Trinity College to see it and how a museum worker there would lick his finger and turn the pages.

I’ve talked about this story before on the blog in my blog post on classic rockers who were arrested for smoking pot, but Donovan introduced “Sunny Goodge Street” with the story of how he was the first British rock star arrested for smoking pot, yes he was arrested before The Rolling Stones and The Beatles! Another amusing, humorous story was the one about how he woke up alone (unusual for a 60s rock star!) one day in 1969 and half asleep with one eye open watching a kids TV programme about space and wrote “The Intergalactic Laxative” – a very funny song. Not his only one though. While not on the setlist, he had a song called “The Pee Song”, which makes me laugh. Yes my sense of humour is still the same as when I was 12. 

Donovan mentioned at the beginning of the show that he got a lot of requests for songs. And he played a lot of hits: “Colours”, “Josie”, “Lalena”, “Jennifer Juniper”, “Universal Soldier” (a Buffy Sainte-Marie song), “Sunshine Superman” “Mellow Yellow”, “Season of the Witch” (Joolz joined him on this one and they both did a fantastic job on guitar, with Joolz playing a very nice guitar solo), and “Atlantis” (an excellent closing song). He also played a couple covers, “Donna Donna”, a Yiddish song, and “Wild Mountain Thyme”. Fans were happy and singing along!

Donovan and Joolz on stage together playing “Season of the Witch”.

Simply put, this was an incredible experience and soothing for the soul – I love these MTV Unplugged style shows because it’s such a unique way to hear the songs and it feels raw and real. I felt so enveloped and hugged by the music. For everyone, the last couple years have been tough, but music brings unites us and gives us comfort – it really does bring peace and love, things that true classic rock fans believe in. And I can’t forget to tell you the surprises of the show. When I walked in, I saw swag packs all over the theatre including a CD called Ritual Groove, a book called Donovan: Sutras, and some chimes (not pictured). Felt like I was at the Oprah Winfrey show! Of course I went to the merch table and bought a signed copy of Fairy Tale and a signed concert poster. So I came home with both things and memories. Thank you Donovan for the unforgettable show!

My classic rock haul for the weekend – I got the Roots of Rock book and Elton John book for free at the library since they were getting rid of things.

As well, after the show I met a German guy named Chris who coincidentally stayed at the same hostel as me. We talked for a good bit after the show all about music, travelling, and vegan food! He hoped to hear his five favourite Donovan songs: Colours, Universal Soldier, Atlantis, Catch The Wind, and The Little Tin Soldier. His wish to hear these songs came true! Always fun to meet people on my travels and classic rock adventures!

Here are some pictures from the show Chris shared with me and said I could post on the blog. Great photos, Chris!

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