We were thrown straight into this show with an opening performance of ‘Folsom Prison Blues’. Clive John who plays Johnny Cash entered after the other musicians and delved into his first performance. The audience were excited to see him, and the warm welcome he received continued throughout the evening. Like Cash, John had no airs and graces about him but instead let his music do the talking, which it certainly did.
John really did make for a great Cash. His physicality and vocals, as well as his guitar playing were all how you would expect them to be and he shows why he is officially endorsed by the Cash family. They, like the audience watching him around me accept him as the man who can really bring the work of Cash alive again.
The ensemble covered a wide time frame from 1955 – 2002, performing a real mixture of songs from ‘Man in Black’ to ‘Piece by Piece’ to ‘Hurt’ and effortlessly slid from one song to another, sometimes with audience interaction in between and often without.
When they did interact with the audience (mainly John) they actually spoke in their normal voices, so there was a real differentiation between them and the people they were conveying. They spoke about them as separate entities which didn’t at all ruin the illusion once they were singing again, which shows how convincingly powerful the performances were.
The back drop showed lots of pictures of Cash. There were pictures of him performing, lots of him with his wife June, and some of just the man himself. It was really interesting to see them as an accompaniment to the music as it enabled you to imagine you were actually listening to Cash himself, and taken back in time somewhat.
Of course this show couldn’t be done without a June Carter Cash and Amanda Stone was the woman who brought her to life. Stone had an impeccable vocal ability and both her performances with John as well as her solo ones were very easy on the ear and she even played the auto harp in her solo rendition of ‘Wildwood Flower’ which showed real musical skill. However, where I felt she lacked was her connection with John. It felt forced and you could tell there was no real chemistry there. Stone is normally a Carter sister in this show, and perhaps that was the reason for this as she is not normally the front woman.
Talking of the Carter sisters, unfortunately during this show they were not included and I felt they were missed. It would have been nice to have the extra female backing vocals, but at the same time the show didn’t suffer without them, especially as they had the added bonus of a brass section during the second half. This really added to some of the later songs and brought a new sound to the stage which was very welcomed.
Credit must also be given to Nick Davis (guitar) Darren Bazzoni (drums and backing vocals) and Martin Bentley (Double Bass, Electric Guitar and Backing Vocals). These three are incredible musicians, and really do play a vital part in making this show what it is. They are multi-talented artists and this is shown greatly when along with John they become the Statler brothers.
Unlike myself, my theatre companion had actually seen the really Johnny Cash on numerous occasions, as well as other tribute acts to him, so this extra insight was advantageous. In his opinion there is nobody who can quite capture the deep rough tones of Cash, as he was simply a one off, but John is most definitely the closest you will ever get to him, and certainly does his unique music justice.
Reviewer: Sara Woodruff
Reviewed: 5th June 2016
North West End Rating: ★★★★