Live Last Night: Tom Rush

From Arlo Guthrie to Tom Paxton, several prominent singer-songwriters who came up in the '60s are well known for provoking almost as much laughter as applause in concert. Tom Rush, however, isn't one of them.

Yet as the 68-year-old tunesmith proved at the Rams Head Tavern on Friday, Rush can make an audience howl until it hurts.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

And not just by relying on tunes drawn from the lighter side of his repertoire, such as the YouTube smash "The Remember Song," a comical take on the ravages of aging and memory loss. A two-man performance enhanced by pianist-saxophonist Joe Mennonna, the two-set show was peppered with droll asides and uproarious career anecdotes.

Indeed, how Rush managed to survive a 1970 Canadian train tour with Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and the Band remains a mystery.

Rush is currently promoting "What I Know," his first studio session in 35 years. Recorded with seasoned Nashville sidemen, the album is an engaging reminder of Rush's knack for choosing and composing songs that will serve him well for years to come.

But even more welcome in concert are the songs that helped establish some of Rush's favorite composers. The New Hampshire native's definitive interpretation of Joni Mitchell's "The Circle Game," coupled with performances evoking his memorable recordings of Jackson Browne's "These Days" and Murray McLaughlin's "Child's Song," were among the evening's contemplative charms.

By contrast, Rush's signature bottleneck guitar rendition of "Panama Limited," a tribute to bluesman Bukka White, couldn't have generated more sparks.

-- MIKE JOYCE

By J. Freedom du Lac |  March 15, 2009; 3:56 PM ET Live Last Night
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