Sunday, February 10, 2008

Donovan Comes to Town

Donovan made a rare concert appearance in Phoenix Feb. 6 with a solo, acoustic performance at the historic Orpheum Theatre.

With just his shiny green acoustic guitar and trademark vibrato vocal, the Scottish troubadour put on a highly entertaining show by revisiting much of his rich catalogue of songs. He played the hits, but also performed several deeper tracks, often tapping his Celtic ancestry.

Launching into some of his earliest compositions without fanfare, Donovan rendered faithful renditions of "Catch the Wind" and "To Try for the Sun" (which, by the way, was recently recorded by Lindsey Buckingham).

He warmed up the humorous side of his storytelling with an introduction to a Scottish pirate song called "Henry Martin," noting the similarities between Johnny Depp in "Pirates of the Caribbean" and the Stones' Keith Richards.

On a more serious note, Donovan memorialized the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, his long-time spiritual advisor, who had passed away the day before at the age of 91 in the Netherlands. 40 years ago this month, Donovan ventured to the Maharishi's Meditation Academy in India with The Beatles, the Beach Boys' Mike Love and jazz musician Paul Horn to study transcendental meditation.

Before performing "Hurdy Gurdy Man" as a musical tribute, Donovan told the audience, "a dear friend, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has dropped his body to move on, but has left a great legacy, a wonderful meditation program. This song is dedicated to all the students of the teachings of this Yogi."

A peace warrior since the early '60s, Donovan updated a couple of anti-war songs with references to the Iraqi conflict; Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Universal Soldier" and his own composition from the Vietnam era, "To Susan on the West Coast Waiting."

Other song highlights included "Sunny Goodge Street;" "Jennifer Juniper;" "Wear Your Love Like Heaven;" "Lalena;" "Eldorado;" "Season of the Witch" and "Atlantis."

He saved his biggest hits for the end of the show with inspired versions of "Sunshine Superman" and "Mellow Yellow," while wrapping up the night with his encore, the jaunty "There is a Mountain."

The following morning, I had the opportunity to interview Donovan at his hotel in downtown Phoenix. Not surprisingly, I discovered that not only is he a great artist, but a terrific person as well.

You can hear Donovan's tribute to the Maharishi leading into an unplugged version of "Hurdy Gurdy Man" on next weekend's Acoustic Storm (2/23-2/24).

That same weekend, we'll be featuring our annual "Silver Screen Acoustic Storm" with acoustic rock from the movies. Since The Beatles had their fair share of cinematic experience, we'll profile the Fab Four in the Eye of The Storm. I hope you can join me then...

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