Last Night: Tom Rush at the Kessler Theater

Tom Rush
The Kessler Theater
October 26, 2011

Better than: sitting at home waiting for it to stop raining in St. Louis.

At 70, Tom Rush is the elder statesman of the singer-songwriter era that began in the late 1960s. Known as the person who introduced audiences to the songwriting talents of James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne, Tom Rush is just as astute a tunesmith as the folks whose songs he has covered.

And all of Tom Rush's charm, wit and instrumental dexterity were on display Wednesday night at the Kessler Theater.

In front of an audience of about a hundred, Rush played songs from across his sizable back-catalog and told legitimately funny anecdotes about his half a century in front of a microphone.

Most of the songs came from Rush's most popular period, 1966 to 1972, a time that featured three of the best albums from any singer-songwriter. Take a Little Walk With Me (1966), The Circle Game (1968) and Tom Rush (1970) are the albums that defined Rush's easy going vocal style and subtle way with words and phrases. 

Two songs from The Circle Game, Mitchell's "Urge for Going" and Browne's "These Days" highlighted both sets Rush performed. 

And although Rush is known for his mellower songs, the guy sure can tear into a blues song or three. Songs from blues legends Sleepy John Estes, Bukka White and Jesse Fuller stood out and got the crowd involved in some serious whooping and hollering. 

Two songs from Rush's most recent effort, 2009's What I Know, were also well received. Eliza Gilkyson's "Fall into the Night" was a particular gem coming early in the first set.

Between songs, Rush told stories about the how each tune came about. He would also share memories about meeting the songwriters he most admired. His story about ending up in a hotel room with Jackson Browne and a lovely female fan was especially funny. 

By night's end, all in attendance were thankful that the World Series game got rained out as Tom Rush had charmed and impressed the crowd with his songs of humility, grace, sensuality and wonder. 

Yes, he's that good. 

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
Way back in the '80s, I stumbled upon a copy of The Circle Game at a used record store. For the only time in my life, a clerk actually recommended something of quality. I ended up coming back and buying the other five Tom Rush albums they had in stock. I still think Rush is one of the most underrated singer/songwriters on the planet. 

By The Way: Nice crowd of folks in their 40s, 50s and 60s, along with a single teenager. At first, I thought his parents just dragged him along for the ride, but this kid new Rush's songs. Kudos to those parents for raising a pretty cool kid. 

Random Note: Go Rangers!

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