Rosanne Cash

Saw Rosanne Cash Saturday night at Dartmouth. Fourth row center. Amazing performer. Amazing band. Much more transformative than Amiee Mann a week earlier. Rosanne is Johnny Cash‘s daughter by his first wife (Vivian Liberto, not June Carter Cash). Cash’s husband, John Leventhal, was the guitarist, and my comment after the show was, “Watching him made me realize how average most guitar players are.”
The most poignant moment was her arrangement of Ode to Billy Joe, originally by Bobbie Gentry. I haven’t heard this song, nor thought about it, in 35 years, but I could have sung the lyrics word for word. Somewhere along the line it was burned into my memory. Cash’s performance was slow, moving, deliberate, and chilling. Afterward she commented, “That song is like a Walker Evans painting.” Right on.
There was a Q&A after the show with her, the video director, and the producer. Maybe a hundred of the 900 audience members stayed. Eventually I asked a variation of my stock artist forum question, “How do you sync up with the audience, and how does the audience influence your performance, and what do you do if it’s not gelling?”
Cash talked about how she has a bag of tricks to regain her center, and commented that sometimes you don’t want to sync up with the audience because, you know, you don’t want to sync up with some audiences.”
I jumped in, “How can we be a good audience?” People giggled. She said, “Oh my God I love you, I want to come down there and kiss you.” And continued on to say, more or less, “just listen.” The producer elaborated, as I recall these three days later, on listening with intent, and feeling the music in you, and engaging with the performance in a heartfelt way. And then they moved on to another question.
I myself know how to be a good audient. My intent with the question is to give the performer a platform to educate the audience about engaging with music and performance at a level deeper than passive entertainment consumption. Especially the stoic New England elites. It’s a softball question, but sounds serious because few people think about music or listening with any depth.
Walking out my date said, “Only you, Notio, could ask a question that made the star say she wanted to kiss you, and then have the producer get all touchy feely about listening.” Yup, could be true.