In his tight skinny black pants and oversized white button shirt, Godfrey Johnson looks like an exhausted businessman. The five o’clock shadow has grown a few hours ahead and his air is so nonchalant, it borders on apathy. Actually, he looks like a disheveled businessman who just gave a huge middle finger to the corporate world and exchanged it all for a piano. And now, his piano is the only thing that matters.
There’s a continuous conversation between Johnson and the audience, perhaps even a flirtation. It is late at night, after all, and we are here to forget about the real world. But then Johnson finishes his story, and he forgets about the audience. Eyes closed, staring deep into the song, he performs only for the depth and the darkness that comes out of each number. And that’s what struck me most – how he turns classic songs into completely new ones. The opening song was a tribute for David Bowie. Ah, how we loved and still love him. Performing his on-stage persona, Piano Man followed. There was Diana Ross, Joe Jackson and a haunting Leonard Cohen. Songs we all know and love and yet it felt like I only truly heard these songs for the first time when they came from Johnson’s mouth and hands. Perhaps because he sneaks in his own satirical lyrics here and there, but he also owns every single moment.
At Kalk Bay Theatre I hear that Johnson has declined the offer for advertising or posters to be put up. One gets the idea that he does not care that much for an audience, only really to sing. And play. He performs songs he loves, and you’re welcome to listen. Or not. The songs don’t care.
Godfrey Johnson performs Johnson Unzipped at Kalk Bay Theatre 12 to 23 April 2016.