I admit to a feeling of creeping decrepitude when I realised that this was billed as the 50THAnniversary show of San Quentin, as it’s hard to believe that “The Man in Black” recorded this unique album in a tough State Prison so many years ago!
It was undoubtedly “San Quentin” that introduced me to Johnny Cash’s music and his stage presence; a blend of brooding intensity and lyricism, which I felt was going to be difficult to replicate. So it was with a certain trepidation that I watched Clive John take to the stage of the Playhouse, Weston with three members of his band.
He certainly looked the part, the film clips behind him were very evocative, and the appearance on stage of Emily Heighway as the inspirational June Carter Cash was very well received by the audience but could this show capture the essence of such an iconic singer?
Well, the first few numbers could best be described as a warm up, but then Clive and Emily launched into a spirited rendition of “Jackson”, two more members of the band appeared in the background, and we were all able to settle in for a lively night of Cash classics performed with style and passion.
Clive John and Emily Heighway are totally convincing as Johnny and June Carter Cash and both are talented musicians as well as vocalists, with renditions on the autoharp and harmonica accompanying songs both familiar and totally unknown to me.
The audience were treated to a slightly dizzying tour of Johnny Cash’s musical journey and collaborations through the last five decades, from “Folsom Prison Blues” through “I walk the Line” to “Hurt”(guaranteed to have me in tears every time).
It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, with lots of audience participation along the way, particularly in songs like the tongue in cheek “Boy named Sue”, but I am always struck by essentially random moments in any performance, and I defy anyone to expect to be singing the chorus of “Combine Harvester” by the Wurzels in this show!
That it happened is a great reflection on the rapport that was built up between Clive John and his enthusiastic audience, who rose as one to take part in the closing anthem “Ring of Fire”, and I hope there will not be another six year gap before the show returns to Weston-super-Mare … Make a note to catch it next time round!
See what else is on at Playhouse, Weston