Monday, November 07, 2011

PREVIEW: Rosanne Cash: Live From Zone C

Had the pleasure of attending a live performance last week in Rosanne Cash's living room -- an event her label organized to help promote her career-spanning two-disc "Essential" collection that came out earlier this year. (I believe it will be shown on the Web next week -- details TK.) Regular readers know that I'm a Rosaddict, but it wasn't until we became friendly on Twitter -- her addiction of choice -- did I learn what a fun and interesting woman she is off stage, something that did not exactly come as a surprise to me given her interesting background and smart songwriting abilities. It was through Twitter that I ended up being a consultant on the retrospective, helping Rosanne decide which songs from her impressive catalog lived up to the "Essential" moniker. (It was not an easy job for me -- at times it felt like the musical equivalent of "Sophie's Choice.")

Rosanne turned to her loyal Twitter following to get requests for the show -- only the 36 songs included on "Essential" were on the ballot -- dubbed "Live From Zone C," a nod to what the section of the city where she resides was called during Hurricane Irene. (FYI: I also live in Zone C and I'm happy to report that neither of us had to evacuate!)

Shortly before I arrived, Rosanne asked me if she could "put me to work" live tweeting from the show -- mainly the set list (Sony wanted to keep the electorate in the loop), but I couldn't resist providing other color commentary. (They don't call us SUPER-fans for nothing. If interested, search #livefromzonec on Twitter to see what I -- and others at the event -- had to say.)

Lizz puts on a show, daily

And if lounging in the home -- with a glass of wine! -- of one of my all-time favorite musicians watching her perform live weren't enough, I was seated next to a handful of Rose's closest friends -- including the great Lizz Winstead, who you may know from her hilarious standup or political punditry, but most certainly because she co-created "The Daily Show." Rosanne noticed Lizz near me before the show and asked if we knew each other. When we said no, she announced that we should follow each other and 10 minutes later, it felt like we'd been best friends forever.

Others including Ann and Phyllis were equally delightful: Ann quickly informed me that she is not a comedian ("I'm just a joke," she said, her deadpan delivery completely ready for prime time), but when Lizz regaled us with stories of seeing Bonnie Franklin(!) live in the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel 20 years ago, my inquiry about the presence of Schneider quickly drew a "You've got a little Schneider thing going on here yourself" (at my 'stache) from the non-comedian. (Zing!)

Phyllis -- a filmmaker and Twitter voyeur but non-tweeter -- was also a lot of fun. (For some reason, I tend to really like people who go from asking how you know a mutual friend to telling you about their love of oral sex in one casual conversation!)

The show was pure heaven -- just Rosanne and her Grammy-award-winning hubby, John Leventhal (who wore his good sweat socks), and various guitars and the living-room piano, with the occasional appearance of their son, Jake, or cat Sarge -- and the most-requested songs seemed to surprise Rosanne as much as they did me. ("The Good Intent"? I skeptically asked if PricewaterhouseCoopers had certified these ballots -- a fair question given the fact that Rosanne didn't even know which album that one was from. She thought it was from "Rules of Travel" -- a logical assumption given that it's about a boat her ancestors came to America on -- but it was actually on "Black Cadillac"!) I asked Rosanne which song got the most votes but just missed the cut -- it turned out it was the song I voted for and the song Lizz whispered to me earlier in the night that she was dying to hear (the sort-of-pathetic-yet-somehow-so-earnest-it's-sweet "If You Change Your Mind").

Hearing her perform the No. 1 hit "Never Be You" was a thrill for everyone -- including Rose, who informed us she hadn't done so in 25 years. (John said he'd NEVER heard it -- joking that he tries to avoid her catalog from before they got together.) I was kind of surprised by how few songs from her country hitmaker days were voted for -- just 5 of 14 were from before she became a New Yorker, even though 18 songs on "Essential" are pre-New York, and 11 of them were No. 1 on the country charts. Perhaps it makes sense, though. Her Nashville days are a lifetime ago -- and when she switched from the country to the pop divisions at her label, she really never looked back. Although she certainly doesn't shun her musical past -- even her once-disowned first album, recorded in Germany back in 1978, is represented on "Essential" -- she really does have a whole other New York singer/songwriter/literary fan base these days, something that clearly suits her to a T. (With this in mind, I've always wondered if having to sing all those C&W double-negatives pained her back in the day!)

Afterward, I was able to snap a couple of quick photos, before saying goodnight to the lady of the evening. After meeting some of her family it occurred to me that like her famous father, she too had four daughters with her first spouse, then one son with the love of her life. (Kind of a strange coincidence, no?) I then walked Lizz to the subway -- am really looking forward to her new book in May -- where we discovered we were both longtime Rosanne fans who had struck up friendships with her in recent years on Twitter. (Rosanne's "King's Record Shop" had helped each of us get through terrible breakups!) All in all, a most memorable of evenings, one I look forward to "reliving" when it's broadcast on the Internet soon.

Until then, here's a short preview of the show -- "Seven Year Ache," Rosanne's biggest song to date, which not only hit No. 1 on the country charts in 1981, also crossed over to the pop chart in the crazy year of "Bette Davis Eyes" and "Stars on 45," making it one of the Top 100 singles of the year. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Moriyina Elizabeth said...

Thanks for sharing. I campaigned for 'Western Wall'because it one of my favorite songs and I haven't been able to find a video of her singing it live and I am glad it made the list..

Mike said...

Sounds like a perfect night. I listen to Michelangelo Signorile as much as I can, and I LOVE it when Lizz Winstead guest hosts. She is amazing - she's funny, curses a lot, very articulate and smart as a whip.