Forum Theatre, Malvern – 19th January 2023
Reviewed by Courie Amado Juneau
Last year I was fortunate enough to review The Johnny Cash Roadshow and loved it. So it was with great anticipation that I jumped at the chance of catching the gang again this year. And man oh man, did they warm this old heart on one very cold night in frosty Malvern!
The lights dimmed, the massive video wall gave us a snippet of The Man in Black talking about his music and the band soon tore into a trio of hits from the great man’s early days of Sun Records, including “Hey Porter”. This year’s show is a tour through the years and each era and significant milestone was covered.
Clive John is a wonderful Cash, not an impression – more an inhabitation. He sounds, looks and dresses like him and has his mannerisms. And he has a warm, funny, personable stage presence that I could very happily spend hours in the company of. But, of course, his principle job is to pay homage to the man and his music and he does this with commendable artistry and obvious affection.
Meghan Thomas is the band’s June Cash, performing on Autoharp (when do you ever get the chance normally to hear one of those?), dancing and providing backing vocals. Just like the original Mrs Cash, she is an integral and most welcome part of this show.
There are so many classic country songs in the set that it would take forever to list them, but the climax of the first half is indicative of the evening’s entertainment. “City of New Orleans” (complete with horns) a song that Cash wasn’t known for – the show mixing it up, keeping it fresh for those who’ve seen the show before. “Long Black Veil” is an emotional ballad, both haunting and tender. And then there’s “I Still Miss Someone” (one of the best songs ever written, a veritable anthem to the jilted and lonely).
After the break more of the same – rightly so, why change something working so well? “Folsom Prison Blues”, into a Gospel section, into a fantastic Clive John original “September” which showcased his songwriting talent (I loved his original from last year’s set too) and then into some songs from Cash’s last years “Rusty Cage” and his last hit “Hurt”. Powerful stuff! And that’s not even mentioning the price of admission worthy “Ghost Riders In The Sky”…
Mark Knopfler’s “Next Time I’m In Town” echoed how we were all undoubtedly feeling – awaiting the Roadshow’s return before they had even finished tonight’s show, which they did in epic style with (naturally) “Ring Of Fire”.
Some nights everything comes together to produce the perfect evening – a songbook that spans decades, a band that is well drilled, performers who command the stage and an eager audience there to appreciate the spectacle on offer. Tonight was one such night. Thank you all concerned and here’s to next year. Ladies and gentlemen, “he’s Johnny Cash” (and so are his band).