Donovan, St George's, Bristol

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The Independent Culture

An audience of adoring fans filled the converted Georgian church - and Rat Scabies was on drums. Yes, the Damned tub-thumper had unaccountably won the sticks for this "Beat Café" tour, a joint celebration of Bohemian/Beatnik culture and Don's 40 years in the business.

An audience of adoring fans filled the converted Georgian church - and Rat Scabies was on drums. Yes, the Damned tub-thumper had unaccountably won the sticks for this "Beat Café" tour, a joint celebration of Bohemian/Beatnik culture and Don's 40 years in the business.

I've had a soft spot for Donovan ever since a line from one of his songs - "I dug you digging me in Mexico" - lodged itself in my juvenile consciousness and wouldn't come out again. There's something unfair about his stereotyping as a cut-price Dylan clone, which ignores such great jazzy psychedelic songs as "Season of the Witch" and the blend of whimsy and social realism to be found in "A Gift From a Flower to a Garden". But one thing you can always depend on from Donovan is that you can't depend on him.

This was a show of often staggering randomness. When he first appeared solo in the opening set, looking good for his age (59) in a composite David Essex/Leo Sayer kind of way, he held us with superbly intimate versions of "Catch the Wind" and "Colours". As the set wound on, though, the old favourites got worse, while Donovan's Donald Sinden-like announcements and constant repetition of the phrase "the Beat Café" (a concept signified by a couple of candles in bottles) began to grate.

But we did get a terrific "Season of the Witch" and, the clincher for me, a lovely solo version of the "digging me in Mexico" song, whatever it is. The encore was "Mellow Yellow", quite rightly.

Touring to 11 June (Ticketmaster: 0870 534444)

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