Singer-songwriter Tom Rush made a solo return trip to Schenectady at Proctors’ Eighth Step, and throughout his two hour-long sets, it was easy to see he was very comfortable in front of a crowd. It was clear from the beginning that Rush is not merely a musician standing in front of an audience running through his songs, but instead, a storyteller who happens to play guitar and sing.
Through his songs and stories, he guided the listener’s imagination wherever he wanted to go. He could switch from wildly hilarious (such as “Making The Best Of A Bad Situation”) to the introspective “Child’s Song.” Most of his songs struck a nerve with his listeners as they were taken from real life experiences that everyone could identify with. In looking at the people in the nearly full GE Theater, one could see why “The Remember Song” was so funny, as the graying crowd could see themselves as they grapple with minor forgetfulness – some may still be looking for their keys. Rush seemed quite impressed that the YouTube video of the song had more than four million views, at least until, as his wife pointed out, that a clip of an elephant burping was not far behind.
Among the various items for sale at the merchandise table was a book by his wife, Renee Askins, about spending 15 years re-introducing wolves to Yellowstone National Park – “Shadow Mountain: A Memoir of Wolves, a Woman and the Wild.” It’s clear that the Rush family has a passion for the outdoors and understand that there are other things beyond music. Which seems to help his songs and stories take on an everyman tone, making them approachable by anyone – they are not merely listening, but experiencing each one. In fact, after the performance was over, he was presented with a certificate stating the entire night was produced using 100% green power.
While it is very difficult to pick out stand-out moments from the show, “Lost My Driving Wheel” is the song that originally drew me to Rush. While it is slow and sad, there is a quality to the melody that is also hopeful. I must admit though, thanks to one of his stories describing the movie “Festival Express” – which documented the fabled ’70 Canadian rock fest train tour with Janis Joplin, the Band, the Grateful Dead and other bands of the era – I cannot get one particular image out of my mind. A town along the route opened up its municipal pool to this group of hippies. While they begrudgingly allowed them to swim sans suits, they would not relax the rules that required bathing caps for people with long hair. And now all I can picture is 300+ pound Lesley West from Mountain wearing a bathing cap on his head, another on his beard, and nothing else. Luckily, this scene was not in the movie.
Review and photographs by Ed Conway
Greg Haymes’ review at The Times Union
Excerpt from Michael Hocahanadel’s review at The Daily Gazette: “He played six-string acoustic guitars mostly, but switched to 12-string occasionally, strumming with thumb- or flat-picks and enlisting his fingers picking upwards. But he kept things simple and strong. Rush reigns as one of folk’s most effective minimalists. He noted, for example, that ‘Drift Away’ usually features a horn section, smoke machines and pole dancers, but that he would sing it by himself, and he complained that a heavy-metal version of his ‘No Regrets’ – he introduced it as ‘a medley of my hit’ – was (eloquent, mock-snobby pause) ‘opaque.’ Rush, however, was consistently transparent: He knows his gift is to get out of the way of the songs, so their essence flows through him without stylistic detours, ego or embellishment.”
TOM RUSH SET LIST
Fall Into the Night
Making the Best of a Bad Situation
Drop Down Mama
Mole’s Moan (instr)
The Remember Song
Ladies Love Outlaws
The Fish Story Song
What I Know
Songs You Can’t Do Anymore
If I Had a Boat
Lost My Drivin’ Wheel
Rockport Sunday (instr)
Who Do You Love?>Bo Diddley