“When Judas Met John” is an interesting show concept by Irish duo Brothers Broke in which we lightly examine how two of the 20th century’s musical icons – Bob Dylan and John Lennon - related to one another and were at times influenced (even if not recognising it always) by one another.
The title takes its name from an audience member shouting out “Judas” to Bob Dylan when he performed at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 and to some folk people there committed the unforgivable heresy of playing an electric guitar. That first “electric” song was “Like A Rolling Stone” and Dylan’s musical sound (and a lot of folk music) was changed forever. The John in the title is of course John Lennon.
How heavily were “Judas and John” influenced by each other’s music at some level? A few of those questions are answered by our on-stage duo tonight, and that itself is part of the problem in writing this review as if I list too many songs here that kind of spoils the surprise of the show for anyone still to go.
A lot of the connections here are better known ones, so I am giving nothing away (I hope) by mentioning perhaps one of the most often quoted ones – Bob Dylan’s response with “Fourth Time Around” to The Beatles’ (well really John Lennon’s) “Norwegian Wood”. Yes, the two songs certainly have similarities, but they also have many differences. Was Dylan really taking aim at Lennon’s changing writing style in the lyric of this song? Who will ever really know (apart from Dylan)? There are, as we find out, other musical similarities between songs in this show, but again it would be nice to balance this by also looking at how different they are too. Oddly, it took Dylan until 2012 to finally acknowledge John Lennon’s enduring status (long after his death) in the song “Roll On John”.
Some of the original songs in this show have complex studio productions that are impossible to re-create in the format of this show so, by default, many of the songs here are stripped down to their basic elements and sometimes that works well, other times not so well. There is also going to be this fine line in a show like this of making it entertaining for an audience just out for a night and wanting to listen to some songs and some other people (like myself) who would like a more detailed deconstruction of the music.
This show does however need a few tweaks to its presentation which at times is a little “flat”. I would like our duo to tell us a bit about who they are at the beginning and tell us, the audience, why they are attracted to the music of Bob Dylan and John Lennon. Both men obviously share a passion and respect for this music, but somehow that is not being shared with the audience at the level it should be. Having said that though, the format does appear to be working as the venue was pretty much a sell out and the audience were obviously enjoying the show.
Review by Tom King (c) 2021
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