Michael Johnston (with his fave Daves)

Michael Johnston
Now Lounge
May 27, 2005
Is Michael Johnston a musician's musician? Or, is it really just that almost everybody is a musician? Whichever, he sure is talented! He plays lots of different instruments (including a toy piano) and he plays 'em all well, while sweetly singing a whole bunch of terrific original songs he has also written. But I think his greatest gift is that sparkle in his eye. It's infectious, as is his personable nature and his sincere interest in people. I love the way he interacts with the crowd, before or after he goes on stage, almost as much as the way he does during a performance.

This show was 2 hours, and reminded me of his residency at the now-on-hiatus Maple Lounge, even though it was advertised for a 9:00 start and actually started at 10:15, and despite the fact a small cover charge was suggested. There was also an opening act - a great set of new material from Dave Celia, which featured a metronome on his piano song to effectively evoke audience nostalgia for elementary school friends.

I'd invited my date to check out Randy Newman meets Burt Bacharach, but Johnston's invitation was to singers in the crowd, who did join his plea to "show me a sign, baby." It was easy to see he and Dave Clark get a classroom of kids participating - in between the lyrics he spoke encouraging words, nodding "ya come on, go for it" to the wanna-be-clappers until he did get the whole crowd flapping hands and maybe stomping their feet, along with the drums and keys. In ongoing improv form he called upon Celia to again 'mount his trusted steed' and play the acoustic guitar for a few trio tunes. Other highlights included a Sam Larkin cover song, Clark's impersonation of an art installation called "F*@# You Mike Harris" and a kooky, brand new, never ending number about soccer playing robots.

Watch for an upcoming live show at the Hillside Festival this summer. You can get "Curious Heart" at Soundscapes for less but it's worth it to buy at a performance -- just don't wait too long. I predict only bigger and broader autograph lines for this young man.

Writer: Kim Logue

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