Josh Rouse | 09.27.07 | SF

Words & Images by: Chris Campbell

Josh Rouse :: 09.27.07 :: The Independent :: San Francisco, CA

Josh Rouse :: 09.27 :: San Francisco
As winter turned to spring in 2002, I was sitting in a friend's apartment in Brooklyn when he rushed to his CD player to share his favorite new record with me. He wouldn't tell me the artist's name. After four or five songs, I turned to my buddy and said, "I've heard this voice before but not like this." The record was Josh Rouse's Under Cold Blue Stars. I'd seen Rouse open for Son Volt at some point in the late '90s but his performance didn't leave much of a mark. This all changed that frigid day in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn. This record floored me, and I listened to it front-to-back for about six months straight.

Then came Rouse's masterstroke, 2003's 1972. Rouse took a risk with 1972 by attempting to capture the sound of the early '70s. The record held the groove of an Al Green classic complimented by songwriting reminiscent of some of the greatest singer-songwriters of that era, delivered with the honesty of Nick Drake or Elliott Smith. This record could get your foot stomping, while also moving you to tears. It was a soul record penned by a young Jackson Browne.

Since 1972, Rouse's output has been a bit less consistent. Nashville was a strong follow-up, while Subtitulo had a few superb moments it seemed rushed. Now touring in support of the somewhat fractured Country Mouse, City House (released 7/31/07 on Nettwerk Records), Rouse has traveled from his new home in Spain to bring his live act back to the States.

Josh Rouse :: 09.27 :: San Francisco
Make no mistake, since the early part of this decade Rouse has established himself as a masterful live performer. He alternates between touring with a full band and hitting the road solo. Both settings have proven that Rouse has a ton of charisma onstage and a little bit of that Springsteen-esque confidence that can rope in a crowd, resulting in sing-a-longs, clap-a-longs and a full command over those in attendance.

While making his way West, Rouse and his band played a memorable show at San Francisco's Independent. The show opened with a few new tracks, which came off much stronger live than on record, but it wasn't until his earlier material, most notably "Comeback" and "Live Vibration" that the audience was hooked. Once he had the audience locked in, there was little that Rouse could do wrong. His stellar back-catalogue songs, including "My Love Has Gone," "Carolina," "1972" and the mesmerizing "Streetlights," had the joyous crowd dancing, singing along and fully engaged.

With the audience thirsting for more, Rouse delivered one of the more impressive encores I've seen in ages. With the excitement flowing, I couldn't help but yell out for "Quiet Town." Not one second later, Rouse granted my request and crept into one of his most beautiful songs. This was followed by early gem "Directions," a straightforward rocker about abandoning your immature past and growing up - a notion that mirror's Rouse's maturation as an artist and performer. As we came down from the high of this rocker, Rouse closed out the night with the heartbreaking, yet ultimately uplifting "Sad Eyes." With unabashed confidence, midway through, Rouse turned the mic to the crowd and let them fill the chorus before the band exploded through the song's conclusion. It was a beautiful moment by an artist who continues to deliver on so many levels.

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[Published on: 10/4/07]

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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstar Fri 10/5/2007 05:36AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

spain is a nice place to live =)

I hope I go there someday.

MaseBase starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/8/2007 09:56AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Great show, lame crowd, excellent songwriting.