Written by Bill Whiting
Photos by Scott Preston
Sam Bush’s appearances in the tri state area are a great cause for celebration, and his performance at the Madison Theater in Covington, Kentucky on June 30 was full of high energy and sharp, refined musicianship. Bush’s concerts are legendary for their playful sense of rock, reggae, homespun country and blitzkrieg bluegrass. Bush surprised many in the crowd by launching into a classic Beatles cover, and by paying tribute to the late Earl Scruggs and Levon Helm. Bush’s band took over the spotlight when the expert picker would finish a solo, and guitarist Stephen Moughin along with banjo wizard Scott Vestal stunned the denizens on the floor with swirling improvisational bursts of high lonesome sounds on a warm summer’s night. Bush reached back into his deep catalogue of recorded material, pulling vital compositions from his critically acclaimed albums, 2009’s Circles Around Me, 2006’s Laps in Seven, and 2004’s King of My World. The title track from Laps in Seven proved to be the highlight of the evening, with Bush slamming away futuristic leaning power chords on a miniature electric mandolin guitar as he bounced in and out of time with his group’s persistent, percolating rhythmic framework. Bush’s nod to Helm came at the end of the set, as the front man sounded eerily identical to The Band’s percussionist and singer on a brilliant, grooving version of “Up On Cripple Creek.” The Sam Bush Band was easily one of the best concerts of the summer season, and it leaves one in rabid anticipation of his return to the Queen City. Highly recommended.