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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Darren Coggan: Poems, Prayers & Promises of John Denver at Chapel Off Chapel

I swear I close my eyes and I can hear the late, great John Denver.

When I open them and see Darren Coggan performing in front of me, he bears a striking similarity to the world-renowned acoustic folk musician, born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. (December 31st, 1943 – October 12th, 1997).

For well over an hour, Coggan serenades an appreciative audience with the hits (think Take Me Home Country Roads, Rocky Mountain High, Annie’s Song, Thank God I’m A Country Boy, Leaving on a Jet Plane and Calypso) and lesser known numbers that made Denver a household name.

What is so impressive about Coggan is that he is able channel authenticity and excellence at the same time.

Accompanied for much of the show by a string quartet – comprised of two violins, a viola and a cello – his mellifluous vocals are intoxicating.

His voice has maturity, depth and resonance. He is assured in his delivery and wins us over from the first note.

In between numbers, Coggan waxes lyrically about the impact Denver had, about his passions and his pain.

His upbringing, the environment, flying, love, depression and relationship breakdowns all get a look in.

The Poems, Prayers and Promises of John Denver is such an accomplished show. I could not have been more captivated.

Coggan also introduces us to his talented offspring, his daughter Olivia, who turned 19 the day she they performed at Chapel Off Chapel.

While she was the backup singer on a few Denver songs, she was also Coggan’s warm up act, where she made an immediate and favourable impression.

Like her father, she is a singer songwriter with a lyrical and melodic voice, which has a decided and delightful twang to it.

Olivia performed half a dozen of her own songs and on occasions provided context to them.

While clearly the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I am eager to see Olivia shape her own musical journey because she promises to go far.

In short, the Coggan "collective" was triumphant on an autumnal night in Melbourne.

They next appear at the Frankston Arts Centre on 28th April and at the Colac Otway Performing Arts Centre the following night.


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