Rosanne Cash | Courtesy Jefferson Center
By Tad Dickens | 777-6474
If Rosanne Cash wasn’t having a great time on stage at Jefferson Center on Saturday night, then she is a better actress than she is a singer.
At the end of a nearly two-hour set at the venue’s sold-out Shaftman Hall, Cash asked the crowd of more than 900, “Why didn’t you invite me sooner?”
A man in the crowd shouted, “Come back soon!”
“I will, my darling,” she replied, as the audience shouted and applauded in approval.
Cash — leading a five-piece band that featured her husband, producer John Leventhal, on guitar — brought out the earliest gems in her catalog, sprang a couple of brand new tunes on the audience and gave them plenty of recent stuff. She relied mostly on music from “The List,” the 2009 album of American standards culled from 100 numbers that her father, Johnny Cash, gave her when she was his 18-year-old backup singer.
Along the way, Rosanne Cash marveled frequently at her husband’s monstrous Telecaster chops. As Leventhal worked through 16 particularly incendiary bars of rock guitar on “The List” cut “Motherless Children,” Cash grinned big as she watched him.
When it was done, she said, “Oh, man! Will you marry me?
“It seems a shame to have so much fun on such a sad song,” she said, to laughter. “But I’m over it.”
And why shouldn’t she be having fun? After all, she is more than 30 years into a career in which hits including set-opening “Seven Year Ache,” which she wrote, and “Tennessee Flat Top Box,” which her father wrote, continue to hold up.
On the former, her resonant, steely vocal drew immediate chills. On the latter, Leventhal and multi-instrumentalist Rich Hinman brought electric guitar fireworks, harmonizing the melody when they weren’t taking turns scorching their fretboards. Cash smiled and grooved throughout.
Leventhal’s arrangements gave new life to the old material, bringing swampy country-jazz spice to “I’m Movin’ On” and rock ‘n’ roll impetus to encore closer “Heartaches By The Number” — both from “The List” — without distracting from either tune’s original power.
Cash and Leventhal, married since 1995, are quite a team. Their songs “Radio Operator” and “House On The Lake,” from the 2006 record “Black Cadillac,” were show highlights. They gave the band a break to perform “House On The Lake” and Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode To Billie Joe,” showing that they probably could have done the entire show as a duet, and it would have been about as entertaining.
Of Gentry’s number, Cash told the crowd that she and Leventhal figured it could have been the 101st song from “The List.”
With new numbers “Modern Blue” and “Etta’s Tune,” from an upcoming record she and Leventhal are working on, they showed that they’re still writing with quality.
It was all enough to make her Jefferson Center fans happy, too, and to want her back. It seemed that the feeling was mutual.