By STEPHEN HOLDEN MAY 16, 2016
When the British singer Barb Jungr was growing up in Manchester, she recalled on Saturday evening, the images on an album cover of “South Pacific” gave her the illusion that a tropical island was a safe, paradisiacal refuge. At Joe’s Pub, where she is performing songs from her new album, “Shelter From the Storm: Songs of Hope for Troubled Times,” Ms. Jungr, in a green silk shirt, shell necklace and black slacks, appeared as Bloody Mary and sang “Bali Hai” with a trio that included the piano virtuoso Laurence Hobgood, Wilson Torres on percussion and Matt Clohesy on bass. These brilliant musicians lifted the performance out of the realm of cabaret and into jazz.
Ms. Jungr is not afraid to be goofy, and her playfulness during a program whose songs addressed the generalized anxiety about the future injected a dash of humor into a troubling question: Where do we go when global catastrophe strikes? Ms. Jungr countered that sense of dread with an attitude that could only be described as jolly. She never stopped moving, and wore a beatific smile.
The album title refers to the Bob Dylan song from “Blood on the Tracks.” Ms. Jungr, a passionate Dylanologist, can squeeze more juice out of a Dylan song than just about anybody. But her approach is less archaeological than intuitive. Analyzing the song, she suggested that each verse is a miniature Shakespearean play, and that’s how she performed it.
A strong, mambo-driven rendition of “Something’s Coming” from “West Side Story” introduced the show’s theme of ominous anticipation, but in a cheerful voice. Mr. Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” and David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” pursued the possibilities of warning and escape. And Bruce Springsteen’s “Long Walk Home” described the desolation of a small town where the narrator grew up.
When she sang Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” the self-adoring proclamation “We are stardust, we are golden” sounded naïve. The words “bomber jet planes riding shotgun in the sky” and “caught in the devil’s bargain” stood out. Yes, something momentous is indeed coming.