Thursday, December 5, 2013

Concert Review: Tom Rush at the Cedar Cultural Center

Tom Rush

Me, Tom Rush, and my Mom, September 7, 2013.
Back in September, my Mom and I saw Tom Rush at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis. My Mom is a huge fan of Tom Rush-she has many of his albums from the 1960’s. This is the 3rd time that I’ve seen Tom Rush with my Mom, and he puts on a great show every time. Rush is a relaxed, easygoing performer. He has a mellow baritone voice and he’s an excellent guitar player. He is also very funny and witty on stage, spinning yarns from his 50 years in the music business.
Tom Rush first came to prominence as part of the folk boom of the 1960’s. He recorded several albums for Elektra Records, before switching labels to Columbia in the 1970’s. Rush’s most famous album is 1968’s “The Circle Game,” which featured songs by young songwriters like Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and Jackson Browne, as well as Rush’s most famous song, the self-penned “No Regrets.” 

Rush is equally adept at singing folk or blues songs, and he also enjoys singing humorous songs like his concert opener, “Making the Best of a Bad Situation.” Rush performed this concert solo, just like the other times I’ve seen him, with just his guitar for accompaniment. But when you’re as good a guitar player as he is, no other accompaniment is needed. Rush’s voice is adept at coloring the emotions of a song, whether it’s good humor or painful memories. Rush’s version of “The Remember Song,” a humorous song about losing one’s memory as one ages, has become a surprise hit on YouTube, with over 6 million views. One of my favorite songs was the old blues song, “Baby, Please Don’t Go,” on which Rush used his ring as the slide on the guitar. Another great song was Rush’s mellow version of “Drift Away,” which was a hit for Dobie Gray. Just before the end of the first half of the concert, “Spider” John Koerner joined Rush on stage and sang “Rattlesnake.” Koerner and Rush have been friends since the 1960’s, and Koerner is a legend in the Twin Cities folk and blues scene. As usual, the highlight of the first half of the concert was the closing song, “Panama Limited,” which is an old Bukka White song. Rush does amazing things on the guitar during “Panama Limited,” as he imitates train whistles, and the sound of a train speeding up and slowing down. It’s amazing, and always leaves me breathless. 

The second half of the concert featured more great songs and more fantastic guitar work on tunes like “Ladies Loves Outlaws,” and the humorous John Prine song “Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian.” Rush sang a brand new song, the lovely “How Can She Dance Like That?” As usual, Rush’s last song before the encores was “No Regrets,” with the instrumental “Rockport Sunday.” Rush said of “No Regrets,” “I’ve written better songs, but that’s the one that sticks with people.” And it’s been covered by many, many people, from the Walker Brothers, who had a British hit single with it in the 1970’s, to U2, who have incorporated the song into their concerts. For the encore, Rush sang his version of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” It was a great and fiery version of the song, although it’s a song quite at odds with Rush’s image. (I highly doubt the gentle Mr. Rush uses a “cobra snake for a necktie.”) 

Seeing Tom Rush at the Cedar is always an enjoyable evening full of fine singing and terrific guitar playing. Rush also talks to fans and signs autographs during intermission, and he’s just as nice off stage as he seems on stage.

Set list:
Making the Best of a Bad Situation
Fall Into the Night
Woody Guthrie song-Dust Bowl Blues?
Urge for Going
The Remember Song
Baby, Please Don’t Go
Fish Story Song
Drift Away-Dobie Gray song
Rattlesnake-with Spider John Koerner
Panama Limited
Ladies Love Outlaws
What I Know
New song-How Can She Dance Like That?
Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian
Merrimack County
No Regrets/Rockport Sunday
A Child’s Song
Who Do You Love?/Bo Diddley

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