GIG: Donovan
DATE: Friday 3rd June 2011
VENUE: Royal Albert Hall, South Kensington, London
COST: £37.50 (plus 3.50 booking fee for the whole transaction)
RATING: Sunshine Superman


Getting into South Kensington on a Friday night with Sat Nav is not great....... St Johns Wood closed off for a major water pipe burst and major roadworks all around the Albert Hall, which meant we were mega late and then couldn't find a way into the carpark we had pre-booked (8 quid wasted).
Anyhow, parking in Hyde Park was free and literally just around the corner, so we dumped the car and got to the Albert Hall at 8.15pm.

We missed his support act - Newton Faulkner and Donovan was into his third somg when we arrived. At a suitable break, the usher let us into our box and we found that the other two people in the box had nicked our seats so they had to move!!! When we got accustomed to the dark we found out they had left the remnants of their picnic all over the floor. On the plus side, we got to hear "Universal Soldier."

As we settled down and Donovan sang "Sunny Goodge Street". Then he introduced the orchestra onto the stage. They took a while to file on and we couldn't keep clapping endlessly so the hall fell silent as the last half of the orchestra took their seats and started tuning up.

The orchestra and band comprised strings, horns, flutes, bongos, a harpsichord, piano, full drum set, glockenspiel, guitars and couple of backing vocalists. His musical collaborator, John Cameron, was the night's conductor. Long time Donovan co-hort Danny Thompson was on double bass.

"Jennifer Juniper" got a tremendous round of applause. Inbetween every two or three songs, a girl narrated Donovan's musical life story and at this time we were up to the part where he started to work with Mickie Most and then we heard "Hurdy Gurdy Man". At this point The Beeb told Minty to listen out for a great bit of guitar and then was promptly disappointed when the PRS had been turned down to "one" and hardly audible on the solo!!! Despite this, the song got a great reception from the audience.

We noticed that Donovan had a page turning Roadie - a guy who ran across the stage every now and then to turn the page of his manual autocue!

Next up was "There Is A Mountain," and then "Mellow Yellow". We thought that was the end of the first half, and given the terrific round of applause and cheers from the very appreciative audience, that would have been a real high to break on, but Donovan then went into "Lalena" which was quite down beat in comparison.

The interval was quite long compared to some other gigs we've been to, and both the loos and bar were not overcrowded so it was a really realxing break. That being said, the heart was sent racing at the cost of a glass of wine at £8.30 for a large glass of Pinot Grigio!!! (So Minty bought a bottle instead!)
Jimmy Page joins Donovan on stage

We took our seats for the second half, which was the complete "Sunshine Superman" album, and Donovan introduced to the stage, the young session from the original recording... non other than one of The Beeb's greatest guitar heroes, Jimmy Page.

The Beeb's reaction was adorable - one of total disbelief and admiration and he spent the next four minutes competely transfixed, and mouth wide open!

Jimmy Page and Donovan

"Berts Blues" was really good - the drummer was playing his drums like Bongos (and bongos were played too), and at times we heard snippets of Brian Wilson's "SMiLE" (funny that, as "Sunshine Superman" came out before SMiLE was born so just who influenced who?). "Season Of the Witch" prompted the Beeb to comment on another Led Zepplin connection - the fact that Robert Plant has been including this is his live repertoire for years.

Next up were some songs played whilst sitting on a raised, carpeted area on the left hand side of the stage, alongside a sitar player (Shawn Phillips), before which Donovan took his shoes off, so he sat playing his acoustic guitar, in socks.

At the end of the album, Donovan thanked the audience but did an encore which comprised "Sunshine Superman" and another rendition of "Mellow Yellow". Jimmy Page was brought back onto the stage to play guitar and Donovan also introduced his daughter and son (half brother and sister). The daughter had been the girl providing the narrative between songs, and his son had joined him on stage for one song during the show. His wife was also introduced on stage as his "muse".

So ended Donovan's only planned show for his rendition of his aclaimed album, which is, incidently being re-released on Monday! Minty is not familiar with Donovan's records, but enjoyed the gig tremendously. The sound in the RAH was terrific, even if the PRS was turned down and drums were behind a plastic barrier and not terribly loud! Although the show was not a complete sell out, the only obviously empty parts of the hall were up in the Gods.

We hung around the stage door at the end and The Beeb got a kiss from Donovan's wife and his picture taken with Danny Thompson who gave him a friendly bear hug.

The Beeb with Danny Thompson



  2. Wonderful pictures! Thanks for the review and thoughts.