The electrifying British chanteuse Barb Jungr has not merely established herself as a true master of any and all genres of music and lyrics in any cabaret marketplace across the globe, but a one-woman happening event wherever she travels. Indeed, she’s been hailed as the finest interpreter of Jacques Brel besides the late composer himself, and copious other creators of song in all manner of styles. But it is with her most recent outing at the Metropolitan Room, a Bob Dylan tribute entitled The Man in the Long Black Coat, that she may well have topped any and all previous efforts as displayed upon our country’s fair shores. It emerges as an evening not merely riveting but both educational and important to the utmost.
Whereas the Marcoviccis and Masons of our day, however resplendent standing solitary on a stage with merely a microphone and a piano, are always better served with a band of at least three pieces, Jungr is dynamite in her ability to provide the illusion of a symphony orchestra behind her even when accompanied only by the sensational Tracy Stark at the keys. And with the Dylan catalog at her own nimble fingertips, Jungr is no less a slouch at the miraculous pictures she paints with her vocal cords as the overwhelming earthiness of her patter between songs. A gorgeous “Tangled Up in Blue” mesmerizes the crowd from the get-go before an other-worldly arrangement of “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” which in turn gives way to an awesome delivery of “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” The title number of the show is even more astounding than when it was recorded by Joan Osborne in 1995 and is clearly made Jungr’s own here, and by the time she hits the crowd with a slow-waltz version of “I Want You” she’s more or less pulverized the audience to a man. In addition, a gorgeously-narrated “Like a Rolling Stone” only serves to make one feel privileged to write reviews of someone so glorious. And her interpretation of “Forever Young” is so definitive as to place her in the same category as Linda Ronstadt executing the Smokey Robinson ouevre so masterfully in the mid-1970s.
Precious little more can be said about Barb Jungr and The Man in the Long Black Coat except that she is THE reason why cabaret continues to find a new audience. And if that’s an overstatement, it gives her a goal which she will unquestionably accomplish. In a reasonably short amount of time, she has emerged as one part educator, one part icon, and all parts made of static electricity that will never cease to crackle across the wide oceans.