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FRP show gives sizzling salute to Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison
Friday, 02 June 2017 10:22

Encore smoked with ‘Ring of Fire,' ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’

By JOHN NORTH
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HENDERSONVILLE —  A 90-minute show saluting influential musical artists Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison ended with a standing ovation in Flat Rock Playhouse’s sold-out 235-seat downtown Hendersonville venue on May 12. (The show ran May 4-14.)

As the audience begged for the show to go on, one of the five tribute band members asked, teasingly, if those present had “time for one or two more” songs.

The crowd erupted in cheers as the group launched — at once — into Cash’s 1963 magnum opus, “Ring of Fire,” followed by Orbison’s 1964 signature song, “Oh, Pretty Woman.”During “Oh, Pretty Woman,” between 15 and 20 audience members — predominately women — dashed into the open area in front of the band to dance ecstatically to the music. (“The lyrics tell the story of a man who sees a pretty woman walking by,” the website Wikipedia noted. “He yearns for her and wonders if, as beautiful as she is, she might be lonely like he is. At the last minute, she turns back and joins him.”)

After the second encore song, the crowd, which had remained on its feet, cheered for yet more music, but the band members gathered side-by-side on stage, joined hands and bowed in unison before leaving. The audience continued to cheer, hoping for a second encore set, until the house lights were turned up, at which point the concert-goers relented, but departed with smiles.

Prior to the encore set, the band finished the regular show with a dazzling rendition of “You Got It,” Orbison’s last major hit. Tragically, he died of a heart attack in December 1988, before he could see just how successful his comeback was. The album “Mystery Girl” was released a few months later, with “You Got It” peaking at No. 9 in the United States  on April 15, 1989.

"The most remarkable thing demonstrated by ‘You Got It’ is that Roy Orbison’s signature style not only wasn’t out of date for the 1980s, but actually fit right in,” the website Songfacts noted. “While you can hear the updated musical conventions in the instrumentals and handclaps, Orbison’s trembling, vulnerable voice and poetic lyrics remained faithful to his 1950s style, and also managed to be as fresh as any teen pop idol of the 1980s.”

The tribute show featured Jeremy Sevelovitz (who played Carl Perkins in FRP’s 2016’s hit musical “Million Dollar Quartet”) and Eric Anthony (who recently performed in “The Music of the Beatles.”) Sevelovitz did a fairly good job of singing many of the Cash leads, while Anthony truly wowed the crowd with his Orbison leads. In addition, Anthony served as music director.

Also performing in the band were Ryan Guerra on bass, Jon Brown on drums and Andrew Rogleberg on keyboards. Guerra sang lead movingly on several songs and Brown sang a credible lead on Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue.” Guerra also, at times, played fiddle, while Rogleberg played accordion on at least one occasion.

Highlights of the show included the soaring harmonies of the singers and the tightness of the band, along with Anthony’s note-perfect guitar work.

The show would have been even better if had told more about the lives and music of Cash and Orbison, so that attendees would leave knowing much more about them.

However, the band did note that Orbison was the first to have a hit — in 1961 (when he earned Australian radio airplay — with “Love Hurts”) and lots of other prominent artists recorded renditions of the song. However, in 1975 many in the music world were surprised when the Scottish hard-rock band Nazareth recorded the version that sold the most records (making it to the U.S. Top 10), to date.

Also, despite a good effort, the show would have benefited from more heartfelt vocals on the Cash songs.

The concert was billed as providing “a musical journey featuring the country and rock ‘n’ roll hits they (Cash and Orbison) performed together and on their own.” It was intended to “pull from the full range of their repertoire that began in Memphis, Tennessee, and traveled across the country and beyond.”

FRP also billed Cash, who died in 2003, and Orbison as “two of the most influential artists in the history of American popular music.” It also was noted that Cash, in particular, “was a collaborator” who liked to perform and/or record with artists of his musical genre as well as those far outside of it, such as Nine Inch Nails, Sting and U2.

The band’s emcee admitted to the crowd near the beginning of the show that, “at first glance, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison didn’t seem like a natural pairing” for a tribute concert.

However, a deeper look into history would show that Cash and Orbison were next-door neighbors in Hendersonville, Tenn., and they both spent time in their early careers at Sun Studios in Memphis, under the wing of the famed recording genius Sam Phillips.

The show highlighted some of the early songs at Sun, as well as their later hits of the 1960’s, ‘70s and ‘80s.” 

The concert opened with Orbison’s classic, “Only the Lonely,” followed by the Cash smash,  “I Walk the Line.” Other standout first-set songs included “Blue Bayou,” Cry, Cry, Cry,” “It’s Over” and the fiery set-closer, “I Got a Woman.” 

After a 15-minute break, the second set began with a bang with Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” followed by a superb — and hilarious — rendition of “A Boy Named Sue,” “Dream Baby,” “Man in Black,” “Love Hurts,” ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down” and “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”

Besides performing Cash’s and Orbison’s individual hits, the show also highlighted hits from their days of performing with their respective “super groups,” including Cash’s the Highway Men and Orbison’s the Traveling Wilburys.

Regarding Cash’s efforts with the Highway Men, the tribute band performed “The Road Goes on Forever.”

And for Orbison’s stint with the Traveling Wilburys, the band played “Handle With Care.”

For its next Music on the Rock tribute concert, June 1-11, the playhouse will feature “The Music of Don Henley and Phil Collins.” 

Other upcoming shows include “Motown Summer Nights,” Aug. 3-13; “The Music of Lionel Richie and Diana Ross,” Sept. 28-Oct. 8; and “August 1969: The Women of Woodstock,” Oct. 26-Nov. 4.

 



 


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