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Paul Mann: Donovan Stops in L.A. for Rare U.S. Performance

With little fanfare, the reclusive Scottish pop legend Donovan announced three rare U.S. concerts in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., at the end of 2012. The concerts were a tribute to his recent introduction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Los Angeles concert took place at the unassuming El Rey Theatre. The small theater has hosted some of the most unique and interesting concerts that the city has seen in recent years. Some examples include Jack White playing with Wanda Jackson, Ben Folds performing with Joe Jackson and William Shatner, and an amazing show by Gary Numan performing his debut album, back to back with his latest offering.

It was in this spirited atmosphere that Donovan performed two sets in front of an adoring crowd.

The mercurial 66-year-old troubadour must be living a sedentary life back in the British Isles, as he looked much like he did when he first appeared to an American audience on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1965. The youthful-looking singer sported the same long-haired hippie persona, but perhaps with better dental work than in his younger years.

The first set featured Donovan as most of his fans know him — singing solo and playing acoustic guitar. As he strummed through 90 minutes of some of his biggest hit songs, the years seemed to melt away for the hypnotic performer and his mostly elderly audience.

The second set featured Donovan’s biggest rock hits, such as “Season of the Witch” and “Atlantis.” He was joined by a capable but uninspiring backing rock band for this part of the show. It was nice to hear electric versions of the songs, but one wishes that the immensely talented singer-songwriter could have a veteran rock group backing up his classic tunes. Oh, let’s just imagine a band like Them Crooked Vultures backing up Donovan for a set of his classic rock tunes. (Guys from the band, are you listening? I’m just sayin’.)

They may still have their chance to play with this master songwriter-guitar player, who taught John Lennon one of his finger-picking styles. Plans are in the works to coax the normally reticent singer into a larger world tour in 2013.

No matter who ends up backing him, it may be a rare opportunity for fans of the music to see the “Sunshine Superman” sing his dreamy hits one last time. If he gives a performance anything like the three-hour show at the El Rey Theatre, his fans should be enraptured.

— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributing writer. The opinions expressed are his own.

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