CASH - OXFORD, O2 ACADEMY 10/02/18
The evening opened to a loud cheer as Cash took to the stage. I was expecting a ‘Hello, I’m Ben Welburn’, but that wasn’t the case. Other than the waistcoat and slick back hair, there were no gimmicks in the Cash line up. No pyrotechnics, no big screens or back up dancers with beehive hairdos, what you get is a performance cut back to its bare minimum. A band continues to work hard and a lead singer that has an obvious love for the man himself.
This is exactly as it says on the can ‘Paying respect to the man in black’. Jumping right into the evening's opener with Big River followed by Get Rhythm, perfectly capturing the spirit that was Johnny Cash.
You could be forgiven for thinking that Ben was impersonating Johnny Cash with his vocals. After all, the one thing alone that made Cash special was his voice. It was this unique raw voice that allowed the legend himself, to stand in front of a hall full of long-term criminals and perform in some of the greatest shows ever heard. Having met with Ben beforehand, the realness he presented made him stand out from others I had seen, grace the Cash stage in the recent weeks. Accompanied on stage by Robert Ray, Chuck Benfield, Matt Cowley and the delightful Kiran Hungin, with her ‘June Carter-Cash’ contribution, the band played an engaging set. However, covering the tracks of a 48 year career was never going to be easy. There would always be someone’s favourite missed out, but the setlist spanned the songs that filled our air-waves
during the mid-twentieth century. The Rock and Roll songs, The Blues, The Folk and The Gospels making it clear why Johnny Cash is still an icon. These songs are full of roughness and heart. The reaction to the music is toe tapping and a dancing delight to everyone in Oxford.
Although the man left the world 15 years ago his music will never die. Just like Marc Bolan, Elvis Presley and Freddie Mercury his music finds new fans. For the ‘younger people’ in the audience, this is the closest they will get to ever seeing a Johnny Cash show. Through the Cash band all of us can still enjoy the songs of this legendary artist that was the Man In Black.