Both Sebastian and Rush can lay claim to having been significant musical contributors to the golden musical decade of the 1960s, and both have had careers that continued into the following decades.
In the '60s as primary lead singer and songwriter for the band The Lovin' Spoonful, Sebastian wrote and sang top 40 hits that combined the folk rock of the era with the band's own good-timey jug band influences and gentle dreamy melodic pop. In the mid-70s he struck gold again writing and singing the theme song for the popular sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter.
Tom Rush's first recordings were often his own take on traditional folk and blues material sung in his signature baritone register. In the late '60s he had a knack for covering songs written by up and coming singer-songwriters that weren't yet on most listeners' radar. His classic 1968 album The Circle Game featured tunes by James Taylor and Joni Mitchell before they became stars. It also included his own composition 'No Regrets' which established Rush as a formidable songwriter in his own right.
Last Friday night both performers appeared without any additional backing musicians other than Sebastian joining Rush (who opened the show) on stage for three songs playing harmonica, as he did on Rush's 1965 self titled album.
One highlight of Rush’s set was Murray McLauchlan's 'Child’s Song' from his Columbia album Tom Rush, where the lyrics seemed to be sung from more of a parent’s perspective than a child’s. His performance of Steven Walters' 'The Remember Song' (The video has gone viral) targeting the age group of this audience, was truly funny.
Rush's live version of Joni Mitchell’s 'Urge For Going' from The Circle Game lp captured the mood of its era perfectly. Rush included a unique bit of Americana in what he referred to as an “amalgam” of train songs by Bukka White called 'Panama Limited' which included guitar patterns that simulated different train sounds.
Rush ended his set with 'Who Do You Love/ Bo Diddley,' lyrics from which provided the title for one of his early Elektra albums, Take A Little Walk With Me.
John Sebastian's voice has diminished in range and quality over the years, but with adjusting the keys of the songs and incorporating audience participation, the spirit of the early Lovin' Spoonful material shone through. Songs like 'Do You Believe in Magic,' 'Daydream,' and 'Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind,' were some the highest quality pop offerings of mid-60s AM radio, and are still great crowd pleasers.
Alternating a number of entertaining anecdotes and insights into his songwriting process (The Supremes were a big influence) with musical performances, Sebastian also showcased his virtuosity on the harp (harmonica).
This was a successful pairing of two iconic performers from a most influential era in popular music.