By Steve Svetovich
Folk rock troubadour Donovan, who made his mark in the 1960s hippie generation, was a big hit during his performance at the Wilkes-Barre Kirby Center Sunday, June 4.
Donovan, dressed in a red suit jacket during his splendid 20-song solo performance, which included story telling about his experiences breaking into the music scene in the mid 1960s, was delightful.
He described the mid 1960s as initially a black and white experience that eventually gravitated into extravagant colors. “Even television was black and white in the beginning.”
His current tour is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of his “Sunshine Superman” record. That album’s title track was a number one hit in the United States.
He started his 20 song set with the romantic folk classic “Catch the Wind.”
His set, which included an intermission “for the older folks like me,” he said, consisted of most of his big hits from the 1960s such as Colours, Guinevere, Little Tin Soldier, Jennifer Jupiter, Universal Soldier, Hurdy Gurdy Man, Lalena, To Try for the Sun, Sunshine Superman, Season of the Witch and Mellow Yellow which drew the loudest applause.
The legendary folk artist, still sporting the long hair look of the hippie generation, performed his classic “Atlantis” as his encore song.
He alternately stood and sat center stage strumming his guitar and interjecting a harmonica when the time seemed right.
Whimsical and at times showing a side of dry humor, he entertained the Wilkes-Barre crowd in a strong mannerly English accent with his countless stories about the music scene in the 1960s between each song.
Telling great stories about his early days in music, Donovan was as priceless with that as his delivery of music.
A lifetime practitioner of transcendental meditation, he chatted about a story regarding the great Beatle Paul McCartney. He told of the time Sir Paul knocked on the door of his London apartment and began an impromptu jam. Donovan told of McCartney singing the opening lines to a new song and asking Donovan to fill in the missing lines. Donovan then added the words, “We all live in a yellow submarine…” And the rest is history.
The long standing, magical troubadour told of a London policeman who knocked on the apartment door, saluted McCartney several times and asked him for his keys, so he could move his illegally parked car. The British policeman then re parked the car, came back with the keys and saluted the famous Beatle again.
He told another entertaining story about playing at a show and thinking there was a roof leak, because his eyes were getting smacked with large droplets of water. Then he looked to the front of the stage and found that the late Keith Moon of The Who was blasting a squirt water gun at him.
He had been sharing the bill with The Who, the Hollies, the Walker Brothers, a comedian and a ventriloquist. Donovan remembered being escorted to the concert in a closed box by security guards. The boxes had little holes to enable musical artists to breath. Crazed fans tapped mightily on the boxes during the transport to the stage.
And he told a story about running from crazed fans with bandmate Gypsy Dave, who lost his hash in sand, and then ending up in a museum with Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits who was doing the same.
Donovan’s signature vibrato is still strong as he enters the seventh decade of his life. That was evident as he bellowed, “Mellow Yellow” to the delight of the Kirby faithful.
“And they call me Mellow Yellow,” he reinforced.
Bill Genello, Dunmore, was among those in attendance. “The songs and the story telling were equally great,” he said in approval.