southern soul blues
September 3, 2005 at Humphrey's Backstage Lounge in San Diego, California
It was the first time I saw Bobby Rush live other than from the DVD half of the Deep Rush Records release "Live At Ground Zero". I went with a buddy named Ken who's seen hundreds of shows over the last couple decades. Surprisingly it was his first time as well. This was, of course, only because Bobby hasn't been out here in 16 years as he later told the crowd. Humphrey's Lounge can hold about 150-200 people and they were all there for sure- standing most of them. Before the show Rush walked over to every person he could reach and shook their hand, thanking them for coming. A class act.
Bobby's band came out first and warmed up with a couple smokin' blues cuts. Drummer Bruce Howards handled the vocal chores and proved to be a strong, gutbucket blues singer of his own. The cat should do a solo project on the side. Next the MC came out and shouted: "It's star time!.....Put your hands together for the legend, the one, the only, Bobby Rushhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!". Out darted Bobby like a prize fighter in one of his attention-getting shirts plus the big booty dancers that are a big (pun intended) part of this Chitlin' Circuit "grown folks music" show. The band started funkin' it up with "Ain't She Fine", with Rush repeatedly instructing the audience to "Look at it!", pointing at one of the girls' "special features" and saying "Ain't she fine?!?". Yes, this was a rhetorical question folks. Then the girls left the stage for one of many "costume" changes with Bobby and band doing "Evil" from his album "Wearing It Out". Rush's enthusiasm for what he does is palpable- he had the crowd, a heartening multi-racial mix that hung on Bobby's every word. The pace of the show would be one funky number followed by some harmonica blues with Bobby consistently rattling off one liners like a PG-13 Richard Pryor. It occurred to me that Bobby's probably told these jokes hundreds of times but still delivers them like they're fresh. Now keep in mind when you go to a Bobby Rush show you must have a stomach for bawdy dance routines and plenty of sexual double entendre (no profanity, however). Bobby's girls and their well endowed behinds provide an endless array of material and ribald banter but, to his credit, it never comes off disrespectful or crude. In his and likely the girls' mind Bobby's praisin' them for what the Creator gave 'em
The band was made up of: Terry Richardson on bass (Rush's son), Fred Taylor on keyboards, Bruce Howards on drums and Gary Roberts on guitar but, despite laying down tight grooves, they were really little more than a rhythm track for the star of the show (although I'm not sure if Bobby was or the girls were!). Throughout the show Bobby played his biggest hits like "What's Good For The Goose Is Good For The Gander", "Booger Bear", "I Like It", "I Ain't Studdin' Ya", "Hen Pecked", "I Got A Big Fat Woman", within most he gave a earthy monologue. He brought the house down with "Hen Pecked" and had the crowd rolling with his "old hen" vs. "young hen" bit. One of the dancers is older than the other. At first he says he don't like "old hens" but as he keeps checking "old hen" out he changes his mind! Near the end of the first show (yes there were two shows- more on that later) he followed "Garbage Man" with an extended blues session giving him a chance to showcase his fairly good harmonica playing (he's not Rod Piazza by a long shot though). An interesting note: Before segueing into the classic Muddy Waters hit "I'm A Man" he said, "In 1951 Willie Dixon offered me this song but I refused. That was a mistake!". Being that he would have been 11 at the time he might have been joking!
There was even a little section where he did a little rapping! He looked at the young people and the audience and asked if they like rap, "All the young people like rap these days". He admitted "I ain't no rapper but they all stole that from me and James Brown anyway". He then said a few words about the tragedy in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina and announced he was doing a second show! He closed the set with the title track from his upcoming album, "Night Fishin'" and if this cut was any indication the cd is going to be a funky goodtime. He had already played some 90 minutes but he said he was coming back to "play for y'all all night long!". At the break he stayed out with the crowd, signing CDs and taking pictures with fans and not a single person left- everyone stayed for the second show which was just as good. In all he must of played in excess of 3 hours.
See I had heard Bobby Rush was one of the greatest live acts- he frequently takes the prize at the annual W.C. Handy Awards and I saw his terrific DVD but you have to see Bobby Rush live to experience what he's all about. Once again, remember it can be racy so go at your own risk. This is "grown folks music" as Carl Marshall likes to say.
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