Tom Rush at Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch
Moving away from his virtual Rockport Sunday concerts and toward more-traditional – with pandemic precautions – in-person performances, Tom Rush says he’s grateful to swap cameras that don’t laugh for people who do.
Rush–launching his “first-annual farewell tour”–got a bit of both Oct. 2 at Fur Peace Ranch, where a vaccinated, masked and socially distanced half-house took in his show with other ticket buyers who opted for the stream. The 200-seat Fur Peace Station was thus transformed from too-cozy-for-COVID comfort to just right for a coronavirus-era concert.
Having survived a 2020 bout with the dreaded illness, Rush is no worse for it. At 80, he seems a man only two-thirds his age, standing for the one-hour, 50-minute, two-set performance, during which he played slide and fingerpicked acoustic guitar as he delivered songs from his and others’ catalogs while accompanied by pianist/guitarist/vocalist Matt Nakoa, who offered a few numbers of his own and infused Rush’s music with boogie-woogie playing and harmonic singing.
Casual in white pants and untucked blue, button-down shirt, Rush set the tone early with a solo rendition of “Making the Best of a Bad Situation,” a comedic number that poked fun at the world in general. He soon revisited the carefree theme with “The Remember Song,” which poked fun at his advancing years.
“I used to collect 78s, then I became one,” Rush said by way of introducing a bluesy rendition of Sleepy John Estes’ “Drop Down Mama” late in the first set.
With his smoky baritone in fine fettle and his acoustic guitar’s tone fulsome, Rush made Tom Rush songs out of Joni Mitchell’s “Urge for Going,” Jackson Browne’s “These Days” and Lyle Lovett’s “If I Had a Boat.” He marveled at Mitchell’s songwriting skills; declared “I hate” Browne for composing “Days” at age 16; and remarked that Lovett “is not like the other children.”
Rush kept the audience laughing with the blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah refrain of the Austin Lounge Lizards’ “Old Blevins” and reminded them how serious he is with the choppy, blues-rock encore of “Who Do You Love” -> “Hey Bo Diddley” -> “Who Do You Love.”
Just as Fur Peace perfectly straddled the need for live music with the realities of the delta variant sweeping Ohio, Rush found the sweet spot between the serious Browne-Mitchell side of folk music and its more irreverent John Prine/Todd Snider school. There was hope. And laughter. And music. And community.
And, maybe, light at the tunnel’s end.