Thomas Gabriel @ Whelan’s, Dublin - 30th Oct 2018

For Thomas Gabriel, the oldest grandchild of Johnny Cash, this was something of a pilgrimage - to come to Ireland in the footsteps of his grandfather. This included a date in what was the Dreamland venue in Athy, where Johnny Cash had played 55 years ago to the day. In his live show Gabriel pays homage to the legend that is his grandfather and includes many songs associated with Cash. He also includes songs taken from the debut Gabriel album Long Way Home.

He opens the show with Big River, which is then followed by his own song Instant Relief, featuring an extended guitar solo from his guitarist Daniel Toa. Toa was a standout throughout the show giving the Cash songs a different perspective that blended with Gabriel voice, which a has definite echoes of his grandfather’s. They played their version of Fulsom Prison Blues next. It was taken at a much slower pace, which Gabriel mentioned was, for him, more reflective of his ownprison experience. He had served over 7 years in jail. He poignantly noted that he had been let out on a furlough to be a pall bearer at the funeral of June Carter Cash. However, he is now concentrating on his music and putting those darker times behind him, other that recalling them in song. The song Cell was written from the perspective of an inmate and features a slow riff not unlike that in The Rolling Stones Paint It Black.

His rhythm section of Nathan Oxley on bass and Mike Little on drums provided a solid platform throughout that allowed his voice and the guitar to take centre stage. Gabriel did not refer to a setlist, rather he used his iPad to looked at possible song choices as they went through the show. There was no hesitation though from the band who were able to play each choice at a moment’s notice. The songs played from his grandfather’s later albums included Unchained, Rusty Cage and Hurt,which he segued into Everything Must Be Sold - the opening song on his (Gabriel's) album. From Cash’s earlier recordings he played spirited versions ofRing Of Fire and Ghost Rider In The Sky, with another incisive David Gilmore-ish solo from Toa, amongst others in a 20 song set.

After a number of Irish dates, he was having some voice issues to the point of losing his voice after singing Home Of The Blues. Indeed, he had some problems again tonight but recovered well enough to finish the set. This fragility in his voice added some venerability to his song Come To Me. Anyone listening to Gabriel’s voice can be left in nodoubt ofits direct relationship to Johnny Cash. It may not be as deeply resonate but it is still a distinctive instrument. His take on Sunday Morning Coming Down was testament to that.

The show is both a homage to a beloved person and a testament to redemption, suggesting that in the future the show is likely to be less Cash and more Gabriel. However those few who attended the show thoroughly enjoyed both aspects of the show. A show that doubtless shouldhave been enjoyed by many more and once his reputation extends beyond those already acquainted with his music should draw bigger crowds. Again,it is the anomaly of Dublin which for one reason or another seems to be a difficult place to draw an audience of a size worthy of his and other who play here’s talents.

Gabriel closed the show with a rousing second version of Folsom Prison Blues,done this time at the pace of the Cash original. That infamous location was also a place that Gabriel had played on the 50 anniversary of Cash's original recorded show. It is indeed a long way home, but Gabriel is finding his path.

Review by Stephen Rapid  Photography by Kaethe Burt O'Dea