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The Man in Black

Thanks to the lovely people over at Mirvish, Chris and I got the chance to return to the theater this week. This time around we were invited to see a Johnny Cash tribute performed by St. Louis native Shawn Barker. The Man in Black is a trek through the life of Johnny Cash via his intensely expressive music.

What I loved most about it were two songs which as acted as bookends, explaining the life of this icon. In rare fashion I will begin with the conclusive angle first.

The song in discussion here is his cover of Hurt; a dark and transcendental tune about offering one’s pain as a sign of one’s depth. The haunting nature of the song helped me reflect back upon all that Johnny suffered through, and all that he accomplished. He was truly a beautiful soul whom lovingly rests in peace now.

The introductory tune that made me interested in his troubled tale was, “Big River.” To many ears this may sound like some honky-tonk sap-song. I instead found it to be a song I could relate to, one about a man in love with a woman. If I ever score a movie… this song will be in it!

I always thought that tribute bands/acts were lame. If you’re a talented musician, with skill, charm and charisma, why on earth would you want to dedicate your career to copying another artist? Well, before last Wednesday night, I did not have the answer to that question. In fact, even upon entering the theater, I was still asking myself the same thing. Right up until I heard the man’s voice.

Being an actor, and an impressionist, it’s always very easy for me to appreciate the works of another similar artist. This was no exception with Shawn Barker’s adaption of Johnny Cash. Upon hearing his second-to-none impression, it suddenly dawned on me, that this man was not a cheap rip off of the real deal, nor was he trying to BE Johnny Cash. He was simply an extremely talented man with a gift and a passion.

Music is what brings people together, and through Shawn’s guitar, his slicked back hair, all black attire and bang-on voice, he brought Johnny Cash fans everything he could offer.

The show was electric, gripping, and extremely well put together. I’ve never been a Johnny Cash fan, or a even a country music fan at that.  Although, by the time I left, I was walking the line just like everyone else.

Watching the show as an outsider actually helped me to appreciate just how Iconic Johnny Cash really was. It helped to me understand why he was so adored by his audience. As I surveyed the crowd and took notice to the nostalgic faces, and sincere smiles, I connected with the music for the first time and it became blatantly apparent to me what his message was. Johnny Cash was a man of many demons, but his music stood for honesty, hard work, love and passion. Such topics that any artist, performer or fan can surely relate to.

Thanks to Jon and Amanda, my eyes have been opened once again. I truly enjoyed the show, and I highly recommend checking it out.

To see the show for yourself [Click Here]


  • Anonymous

    Johnny Cash is the man! You guys are very lucky to get to go to these!

    • Anonymous

      We definitely are. It is a great opportunity every time we’ve gone. They are always shows from off the beaten path, but I’ve learned to trust Mirvish and the shows they choose. Great company that brings a lot of joy and class to our city.

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