Rosanne Cash- Edmonton March 23, 2015   Leave a comment


Living a ninety minute drive away from Edmonton’s Winspear Centre, it is rare for my spouse and I to take in a concert in the city, rarer still for us to do so on a Monday night.

Rosanne Cash, a long-time mutual favourite—we’ve been listening for thirty years and first saw her and John Leventhal at the Calgary Folk Music Festival nineteen years ago—held court at Edmonton’s finest music hall, a show rescheduled from some six weeks previous due to Leventhal’s spinal surgery.

Without question, this was an amazing live experience.

Unexpectedly—and more the bad to me for not following things more closely—she and her very fine (if occasionally too loud- personal preference only- others seemed to love; I am more flat top than Strat) five piece band performed The River and The Thread in its entirety. While many artists have taken to this concept, normally it is an archival or anniversary experience (the ‘jump the shark’ moment perhaps being Bryan Adams’ 30th Anniversary Reckless tour!) and I don’t believe I have experienced something similar in-person.

The hour-long first set, featuring the album’s eleven base songs, was impeccable. From the first notes, the band sounded great, were definitely feeling it on this night. The sound was big and bold, but not overpowering (except on the extended guitar pieces which I didn’t appreciate.) Cash herself was in great voice, and engaged the audience from the get-go, binding the songs together with her personal narrative. A very strong album was elevated in this presentation.

Her deep appreciation for the southern United States, the good and the bad, the enlightened and the dark, is apparent throughout the album, but is so vividly tangible within the live setting. The southern soul vibe certainly came through. Her stories provided touchstones that most recognized whether in personal experience or from vicarious observation. That at one point she referenced the richness of the south that universally implied “makes us Americans,” or some such was entirely forgivable.

The second set was even better for entirely different reasons. Playing mostly familiar songs from her vast catalogue (“Seven Year Ache,” “Tennessee Flat Top Box” (one of the noisy songs, going from Elvis to The Beatles) and “Blue Moon With Heartache.” Four songs from The List, my least favourite Cash album, did nothing to diminish my enthusiasm for the concert. Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On” was ballsy and bluesy, and “Long Black Veil” sounded fresh. Perhaps I judged the album too harshly a few years back and need to give it a fresh listen.

After referencing the Tallahatchie Bridge in her introduction to “Money Road” at the close of the first set,  I was intrigued when she prefaced the fourth song of this set with “We’re going to visit that bridge I mentioned earlier.” The band had left the stage at this point, and as Leventhal started some noodling, I was thinking that I must have missed a conversational aside about ‘another’ bridge during the first set, because there was absolutely no chance she would perform ‘that’ song.

But, the longer he played with the notes, I started to get shadows of Bobbie Gentry and Carroll County, and by the time Leventhal hit the initial, immediately recognisable note of “Ode to Billie Joe” it was all I could do to exhale a soft, thrilled, “No!”

It was magic. The entire hall was silent for the entire five minute reading of the classic song, and Cash sang her ass off—as she did the entire show. Had Bobbie Gentry walked on from stage right I couldn’t have been more pleased. I have never heard of Cash performing the song (again, bad on me for not paying attention) but it was the evening’s highlight for this listener. Stunning.

Makes me think a Bobbie Gentry tribute album should be put together by someone.

The second set seemed brief, but wasn’t, coming in at almost an hour. Nothing from Rules of Travel, Interiors, 10 Song Demo, Rhythm and Romance, The Wheel, Somewhere In the Stars, or Right or Wrong, and not all of that is unexpected when devoting such a large portion of the show to the latest album. Not complaining, just noting. A couple more country covers as the encore (a spirited “Heartaches By The Numbers” and beautifully restrained “500 Miles”) and the night came to a close.

An invigorating and dynamic performance from a veteran performer.

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Posted 2015 March 23 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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