Review: The Johnny Cash Roadshow
Venue: Grand Opera House, Saturday, September 28
The Johnny Cash Roadshow revealed a surprising North-South divide.
“Has anyone here been in prison?” Clive John, aka Johnny, asked the Grand Opera House audience. “In Croydon, lots of hands went up,” he added, when he got no response.
Clive was introducing the jail song San Quentin during a perfectly-honed tribute act which takes us through Johnny Cash’s career from the 1950s to 2002, the year before his death. He really gets the essence of Cash and that deep voice without striving significantly to be a sound-a-like.
At the risk of offending die-hard fans it’s a better voice than the original, with the grumbling bass put to particularly strong effect as he growled through I Walk the Line.
The show opened with a few old favourites, including Cash’s calling card song, Man In Black. These were performed with a tight backing band featuring Nick Davis (electric guitar), Martin Bentley (stand-up and electric bass) and Roger Smith (drums), before “June Carter” came on stage.
Amanda Stone, as Cash’s wife, sounded as sweet as she looked, dancing coyly in 1950s’ sticky-out dresses that she changed several times throughout the evening.
You had to remind yourself that the Dreamboats And Petticoats image belied a steely inner will Carter needed to keep Cash on track throughout their 30-odd years together. Stone’s voice was never better than on Ring Of Fire (saved, perhaps inevitably, for an encore) when she effortlessly hit the chorus’s high notes.
Meanwhile, Daddy Sang Bass, one of Cash’s gospel songs and another duet, reminded us that huge swathes of material from a long career are not necessarily worth investigating. The same could be said of the sugar-coated but nicely performed Ballad Of A Teenage Queen, a cautionary tale about fame, with a happy ending.
We might have had a little more material from Cash’s late exploration of work by a younger generation of American country and rock musicians, although it was good to hear a solo version of Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt, smoother but every bit as dark as Cash’s rendition.
The Johnny Cash Road Show’s warm reception was typified by the audience’s enthusiastic reaction when asked to holler and help recreate the atmosphere at Cash’s famous 1968 prison concert (“San Quentin may you rot in hell”). Maybe there were a few ex-cons in the audience after all.
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