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Let me put my cards on the table: I'm a big Johnny Cash fan.
I like him as a younger man with slicked-back hair singing songs like 'Folsom Prison Blues' and 'Ring of Fire'. And I love him as an elderly man revisiting his roots and re-interpreting modern classics on his final albums. (His version of Trent Reznor's 'Hurt' still stops me in my tracks every time I play it.) So I'm very excited that the Tex Perkins' show, 'The Man in Black: The Johnny Cash Story', is returning to Brisbane for a season at the Twelfth Night Theatre for two weeks from 31 August.
The show stars Perkins as the Man in Black, supported by actor-singer Rachael Tidd as Cash's beloved second wife, June Carter. They're backed live on stage by the Tennessee Four, who take up the role originally filled by Cash's own backing band, The Tennessee Three.
Together, this talented group of musicians takes the audience on a blazing two-hour trip through Cash's turbulent life, including his rise to stardom, drug addiction, divorce, brushes with the law, and eventual death.
The story is told primarily through Cash's songs, and the show includes the above hits, as well as 'I Walk the Line', 'A Boy Named Sue', 'Jackson', and plenty more.
I didn't see 'The Man in Black' when it last played in Brisbane, but friends who did raved about it to me. A quick Google reveals that the show has also received praise from reviewers across Australia and overseas, and won Best Australian Contemporary Concert at last year's Helpmann Awards.
Reviewers have been particularly impressed by Perkins' portrayal of Cash, his interpretations of the star's songs, and his ability to capture Cash's well-known personal contradictions ('a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other'). They've also noted the chemistry between Perkins and his golden-voiced co-star Rachael Tidd, and praised the powerhouse music produced by the Tennessee Four (Steve Hadley, David Folley, Shane Reilly and Shannon Bourne -- all successful musicians in their own right).
Tex Perkins himself is a long-time Cash fan and played many Cash songs in his early bands. For him, and every other Cash admirer, this is a welcome chance to experience those songs live once more. For everybody else -- even those who know nothing about Cash -- it's a chance to hear great music (embracing blues, country, gospel, and rockabilly) and learn more about the man often described as a 'walking contradiction'.
Tickets are available from the Twelfth Night Theatre on 3252 5122 or from Ticketmaster.