As the seats filled up, a packed out Frankston Arts Centre eagerly awaited the arrival of one Mr Tex Perkins.
The stage and arena lights dimmed into darkness as The Tennessee Four took to the stage.
A train engine like drum shuffle began proceedings. Then the slapping sound of a double bass joined the groove. Then you hear that particular twang of an electric guitar, and before the lights illuminated the stage, Tex Perkins, ‘The Man In Black’ walks onto the stage, with his acoustic guitar and opens the show with the Johnny Cash classic, Walk the Line.
It is exactly what you would expect, the feel, the vibe and the sound of a town hall or theatre in Southern America circa 1950’s. The crowd bopped and swayed to songs Hey Porter and Get Rhythm, to where Tex was joined on stage by Rachel Tidd, who is the June Carter of the tour. These three opening songs of the night were only the beginning of the Johnny Cash story.
Tidd and Perkins then took a seat on stools toward the sides of the stage and began telling tales of Cash’s life and career. At this moment I realized this was much more than just another tribute show, but an education in Johnny Cash 101. The stories told, were presented with excellent delivery, with a few jokes thrown in here and there. Opening my imagination and at times taking me back to a simpler time in USA where Cash would entertain his audiences.
I was fully captivated and entertained throughout the evening by the band and singers and my mind was blown by the vocal similarities of the duo Tidd and Perkins to that of Carter and Cash. To put it simple, it was an outstanding performance. Swapping between stories and songs throughout the night, rolling off a lot of Cash’s hits in a time line form from the beginning of his career, then sadly to the very end.
Rolling through hits such as It Ain’t Me Babe, How High’s The Water and several others. Then the most famous Carter and Cash duet, Jackson (which was sung as ‘Frankston’) and it really got the crowd cheering! Such a great high to end the first half of the performance.
After a brief twenty minute intermission, and a glass of local Shiraz, I returned to my seat eagerly awaiting the second half of the show.
The Tennessee Four returned to the stage after the break and sporting new blazers. Picking up where they left off, it did not take long to get back in to full swing, as Tex appeared on the stage once again, and introduced himself as only one could, ‘Hello, I’m Johnny Cash’. This was the cue for the band to start playing Folsom Prison Blues.
An amazing part of the set, featuring hits delivered in their Live at Folsom Prison - recording form. These were some of Cash’s quote, ‘hanging songs’. Songs about being imprisoned and or sentenced to death. Songs included were 25 Minutes To Go, Long Black Veil and Bad News followed by an upbeat Boy Named Sue.
Through more storytelling and more Cash hits we found ourselves at the last stop of the Tex Perkins– Man In Black show. Finishing up with a magnificent rendition of the classic duet, If I Were A Carpenter, then Cash’s outstanding cover of Nine Inch Nails, Hurt. Tex Perkins hits all these songs out of the ball park for a home run. The Night ended with Tidd on stage singing backing vocals to Ring Of Fire. As the song ended, Tidd and Perkins took a bow and made their exit off stage, hand in hand with one-another
After a lengthy applause, and cheers from the crowd, The Tennessee Four, Rachel Tidd and The Man in Black, Tex Perkins returned to the stage for a final encore. A medley of Johnny Cash’s greatest hits flowed in an up-tempo beat and oh so smoothly.
Tex Perkins-Man In Black is a show that is not to be missed. Do not mistake it for just another tribute show. It is a history lesson, and journey through the life and times of Johnny Cash via song and storytelling in its finest form. This was the first show of the national tour, so if this review sways your decision to grab a ticket, I strongly urge you to do so, as a show as great as this is not to be missed.
Review Contributed by Dillon Hughes