Memories of my one and only encounter with The Man in Black.
Johnny Cash walks onstage introducing himself simply by saying “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” not really needing any introduction. It is August 30, 1994 in Toronto, Canada and Cash is playing the Canadian National Exhibition bandshell where he has performed previously over the years. It is my first (and only time) I will get to see the Man in Black and he is in good form. Cash had made his first record with Rick Rubin (‘American Recordings‘) and was being discovered or rediscovered by new groups of fans. A few months previous to this Cash played the ‘Legends’ slot at Glastonbury and was one of the highlights of the festival. It felt fortunate to get to see him surrounded by old and new fans in such a small setting.
My father was a country and western fan and I was listening to alternative music but went to the CNE for the chance to see what my old man was on about. Cash played a mixture of his well-known songs (‘I Walk the Line’, ‘Ring of Fire’, ‘Orange Blossom Special’) whilst also introducing some of his new recently released material. I can’t recall what songs he sang exactly and trying to find an accurate setlist was difficult. What I do recall is how it made me feel happy to get to be a part of the audience. Looking back on the concert I realised that I was able to enjoy my father’s music and it was an introduction to americana music (although I would still have described Cash at that time as being a country musician). Cash carried on working with Rick Rubin releasing originals mixed with covers, imbuing them with his baritone vocals and creating his life lived to the fullest hymns prior to his death on September 12, 2003.
Being able to watch Johnny Cash at the CNE surrounded by all of the fairground rides, games of chance, buildings with dog shows and food stands (Tiny Tom’s donuts was a favorite) was not the same as being able to see him at Glastonbury. However the celebratory nature of the CNE with its end of summer feeling felt like the right place to see Cash as he found a new audience (including me).
Not being able to find any quality recordings of the Toronto concert I have added a clip from his Glastonbury performance below.