One never knows what to expect when catching up with one of the musical idols of their youth - 35 years later. But seeing Tom Rush perform many of his classics at the Bankhead Theatre in Livermore, CA last Sunday night was more than satisfying. It was moving. Rush, a singer-songwriter-song interpreter extraordinaire, cut his teeth in the Cambridge Folk Music scene in Boston in the late 50's and early 60's. That makes him a bit "old" (hey, it's all relative, right?) by some people's standards. But he still played guitar and sang with youthful energy and skill, and had a crowd of about 500 fans in the palm of his hand. Two characteristics distinguish Rush right off the bat: his relatively low voice - a rich baritone - and his preference for playing guitar in several different tunings. Both of these factors contribute to his having a unique, full sound as he delivers his music. He played many of the songs he's best known for: Joni Mitchell's "Urge For Going" and "Circle Game," a tearjerking version of Murray McLaughlin's "Child Song," and my two favorites of his original songs, "Rockport Sunday" and "No Regrets." He treats the latter two songs as one long song, as they flow together very nicely. Rush also graced the crowd with solid versions of some other enduring songs, including "Ladies Love Outlaws" and "Drift Away." He performed a number of songs from his new album, "What I Know," and drew loud laughter when he announced it as his first studio album in 35 years. "I didn't want to rush into anything," he said. Though hampered by some congestion, his voice was surprisingly strong for a guy who has to be closer to 70 than 60. And his finger picking guitar stylings are still sounding just fine, thank you very much. Rush is warm, aware, and musical. He brings some of the old Folkie Intellect blended with razor sharp humor to his shows that keeps the audience attentive and relaxed all at once. I left the performance with the reaffirmation that some artists, in spite of graying hair and more than a few wrinkles, can still pull it off as they age. Tom Rush is certainly one of them. He was, in a word, outstanding.

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Jim Hudak

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