Michael Johnson Photo
Michael Johnson sang both folk and pop styles during his Tuesday concert at Halenbeck.

Michael Johnson combines folk-pop styles

By Dave Gelsler/Staff Reviewer
SCS Chronicle, St. Cloud, MN
October 8, 1978

Michael Johnson, the Minneapolis-based contemporary folk-pop performer was well received by a near capacity crowd at Halenbeck Hall Tuesday night.

Johnson became nationally known this summer on the basis of two pop hits "Bluer Than Blue" and "Almost Like Being in Love."

He originally gained his following through playing beautiful and whimsical folksongs at colleges throughout the Midwest. Johnson also put out three locally successful albums: "There Is A Breeze," "For All You Mad Musicians" and **Ain' Dis Da Life.

After signing with EMI America, Johnson changed his style to become more pop-oriented. Previously he did most of his performing and recording with just acoustic guitar, but now he is backed by electric guitar, bass, drums and piano.

In concert, Johnson's band was led by Minneapolis keyboard player Bill Barber who also sang, played trombone and flute. The rest of the members were: Bill Berg, drums; Jim Johnson, bass; and Roy Trout. electric guitar. They fit in well with Johnson's new sensual, easy-to-dance-to "Love the one you're with before she leaves," style.

Johnson also retained his solo style in concert and played three loving and meaningful ballads. "For All You Mad Musicians," is a song of resignation to and reflection on daily life. "Will I Ever Catch Another Butterfly," is a song about how tough it is to recapture the childlike sense of joy in living. Finally, Johnson " introduced a new acoustic song "And I'll Always Love You."

Johnson and his band had a fun time onstage and that spirit spread to the audience. The key factor for Johnson now is to more successfully combine his two styles.

"I'm walking the fence between two styles and I didn't know how well I would be received." Johnson said in an interview after the concert.

The audience enjoyed both styles, but particularly the new one. The song that drew the loudest response was "Gimme Dat Wine," an old folk-blues tune in which Johnson updated the lyrics.

The spectators cheered and screamed over "Bluer Than Blue" and "Almost Like Being In Love," which Johnson will be playing on NBC's Midnight Special tonight.

The concert ended with a song from Johnson's old style "Love & Sex" contained on his "For All You Mad Musicians" album. The song's lyrics included "Love will get you through times of no sex better than sex will get you through times of no love."

With the song's emphasis on true love and affection, perhaps Johnson chose to tell the audience that he does not intend to be just another shallow pop performer.