Donovan brings classic vibe to Reeperbahn

Donovan performs Sept. 24 during the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, Germany. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

By Chris M. Junior

Not all of the artists booked to play this year’s Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, Germany, were in the early stages of their respective careers.

Donovan, the singer/songwriter who hit the big time in the 1960s, played his hits and more on Sept. 24, the second day of the three-day festival.

After opening his set at the intimate Fliegende Bauten with a solo version of “Colours,” Donovan was joined by his four-piece band for “Catch the Wind.” That song, which was his first to reach the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaked at No. 23 in 1965.

More Top 40 hits followed: “Jennifer Juniper,” “Wear Your Love Like Heaven,” “Lalena” and “Sunshine Superman.” During the hypnotic “Season of the Witch,” a non-Billboard hit that ranks among his best-known songs, Donovan stopped playing his guitar and did a brief dance that prompted a few whistles from the attentive crowd.

A dancing Donovan? That’s right, and throughout his set, he also threw in some finger-snapping, a few hand gestures and plenty of smiles. And before his night was through, Donovan played well-received versions of “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” “Mellow Yellow” and “Atlantis.”

Donovan wasn’t the only familiar artist on the Reeperbahn Festival schedule. Cee Lo Green, the Gnarls Barkley singer who is making plenty of noise on his own thanks to the viral sensation “F**k You,” closed out Sept. 24’s lineup at the Gruenspan club. Edwyn Collins, best known for the 1995 hit “A Girl Like You,” was booked to perform at the Docks club on Sept. 24.

But up-and-comers from around the world dominated the Reeperbahn Festival’s lineup, and there were plenty of good ones, including U.S. acts Deer Tick, Earl Greyhound, Gabe Dixon and Caitlin Rose, as well as non-American artists such as Ginger Ninja (Denmark), Grant Campbell (Scotland) and Nabiha (Denmark).

Like a scaled-down version of South by Southwest (held every March in Austin, Texas), the Reeperbahn Festival also presented afternoon panels, the Flatstock poster show and film screenings.

And just like SXSW does for Austin acts, the Reeperbahn fest (held in Hamburg’s St. Pauli neighborhood) showcased plenty of German artists.

“Although we had no headliners in 2010, the Reeperbahn Festival attracted about 17,000 guests — exactly as many as in the record-setting year 2009,” managing director Alexander Schulz said in a statement released Sept. 26.

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