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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Bobby Rush brought old school cool to Rialto last night

    “I’m a Scorpio. Some call me a sex addict,” said 82-year-old blues/funk musician, Bobby Rush. The crowd, consisting mostly of gray-haired people, laughed. “Shut up! You don’t know me.”

    The old-timey singer/songwriter shared this astrology-related thought among other weird remarks last night on the Rialto Theatre stage. After seeing his performance, I would have to agree that even at his age, Rush is still pushing for a certain sex appeal brought to life by songs like “Hoochie Man,” “She’s So Fine” and “Big Fat Woman.”

    Let’s step back a moment. As you can probably imagine, this event brought in a crowd ranging from just plain old, 18, to 45 year olds. Why was I there, amid so many borderline geezers?

    To me, blues is a dying art. I have always understood it to be a spiritual genre marked with deep meaning and connection. Hardly any of us millennials know much about blues, let alone listen to it. Hope was revived, though, when the opening act stepped on stage.

    Twelve-year-old Roman Barten-Sherman and 15-year-old Rylande Dodge walked on stage. Roman had a small guitar in his hand and Rylande sat down behind the drum set. The duo was introduced as Roman Barten-Sherman and the Interstellar Blues Orchestra. Rylande was the Interstellar Blues Orchestra as he played drums and occasionally picked up a bass guitar, sometimes playing them simultaneously.

    The boys played a few covers and several of Barten-Sherman’s original pieces. I was blown away not only by their ages — or lack thereof — but also the maturity of their music. Barten-Sherman’s vocals were powerful, despite coming from a pre-pubescent voice. He sang about the death of immortality, bootleggers and other things I would expect from an old, perhaps grouchy, man. It was a glaring contradiction, but it made wonderful music.

    Eventually, it was Rush’s turn, and he knew it. As soon as Rush stepped foot on the stage, he captivated the entire audience. His white slacks, purple bedazzled jacket and overall presence demanded our attention. At 82, he jumped, kicked and sang his heart out. From the minute Rush first presented himself, he never stopped.

    Rush is an old-school blues player that layers his southern-Louisiana sound with energy-fueled funk amid raunchy, sexual music that fully embodies who he is. Rush has written and recorded over 200 songs and is proud of it. He let us know every few songs, much like your grandfather who tells you the same story over dinner while you nod and say, “Yes, I know,” before letting him continue on anyway. I can say this about the legendary Rush because he said it himself: “[he’s] old.”

    But Rush’s age was no disadvantage to his show or his sexuality. With any song about a woman — which was a solid majority — we would find a beautifully voluptuous woman in a tight dress or jumper suit on stage. She would side step for a while and then turn around and shake for us. Rush encouraged us to look, “married or not,” and would then stumble, gasp or curse because he was so taken by this woman’s big ass. Look up his live songs on YouTube you’ll be sure to find her.

    I was particularly impressed with the entire band’s ability to transition from one song to the next without pause. The nearly two-hour show was seamless and the energy with which the night started was maintained throughout, except for one brief moment when Rush took a couple of minutes to “get real” with us. He expressed that he was proud our society was at the point where people could accept him for who he was and enjoy his work. It was a very personal moment for both him and the crowd.

    Rush has been a huge component of the developing blues scene for many years and it was a unique opportunity to see him in person being himself and doing his thing. Rush hopes to return to Tucson someday and maybe he will, but it seems that he is ready to “cool down,” and understandably so. Take advantage of any opportunity to see him in person; this Scorpio is something very special.

    Follow Thea Van Gorp on Twitter

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