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Kevin Johansen with Liniers, Pavilion Theatre, Brighton, May 2
Rather than being a clever way to help plug his illustrated lyrics book or a novel way to reimagine the live experience, this collaboration between Alaskan-Argentinian singer Kevin Johansen (pictured) and Buenas Aires cartoonist Ricardo Siri Liniers felt more like an excuse for the two friends to indulge in some travelling together.
As the bilingual songwriter ploughed through a selection of non-committal Jack Johnson-esque numbers from his extensive back catalogue and triple Grammy-nominated breakthrough Sur O No Sur, Liniers, seated stage left behind a table stacked with paint and paper and under a camera hooked up to an overhead projector, drew comic interpretations to bring the tracks to life.
He produced the sort of innocent, happy-go-lucky cartoons you see on the side of organic drink cartons, and that suited Johansen’s music just fine, with its positive messages about being content with your lot, living cleanly and embracing love.
Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with pointing out the world’s decencies. But it was telling that when the pair tackled Mcguevara's O Chedonal’s - a ditty written about the revolutionary’s corporate hijacking which had something to say, even if it was borrowed straight from the No Logo for students manual - they came up with something a little different. Hasta La McVictoria Siempre read the scribble next to a depiction of Che dressed in a red and gold.
Musically, McGuevara was the highlight, along with Cuban son No Me Abandonas and bolero Oops! which revealed just how versatile a songwriter and guitarist Johansen is.
The duo’s chemistry - Johansen serious and thoughtful, Liniers an affable joker for mother-in-laws the world over - was refreshing, and they exchanged banter and occasionally swapped roles to disastrous, but comic, effect; Liniers even fulfilled his dream of playing Love Me Do on the harmonica in England.
Not everything in the festival needs to be highbrow, and as the compadres sent out Liniers' drawings as paper aeroplanes to eager enthusiasts, it showed there is always a market for fun.
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