Generally speaking, when Bobby Rush make an appearance, it’s headlining to tens of thousands of screaming, adoring fans, but down in Indianola, Mississippi at the legendary Club Ebony, a very special, nearly unadvertised show during Bridging the Blues gave an intimate crowd of around fifty the performance of a lifetime.
Club Ebony is perhaps most famous for being a musical home to a young B.B. King, who after over fifty years of regularly coming back to his adopted home, purchased the club from it’s well-known longstanding proprietor, Mary Shepherd. He recently turned the club over to the nearby B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center, who are continuing the mission to bring great live music to the longstanding venue.
When Rush took the stage, he burst forth in an energetic dance while drawing from his wide repertoire, performing with all of the zeal — and seemingly more, that he does in front of crowds of thousands that pack into festivals to hear him. The fans jumped to their feet, screaming and singing along with the lyrics. “A big gal will keep you warm in the winter… and give you shade in the summertime!” he proclaims — his trademark giant “Bobby Rush Smile” beaming from ear to ear.
“An Intimate setting, like a Private Party,” Dion Brown, Director of the B.B. King Museum recently told us. “That’s what Club Ebony will give you.” That fact was no more apparent than the night Bobby Rush danced, sang, played harmonica, and put on the show of a lifetime.
The event was a special part of Bridging the Blues. Bridging, which consists of two blues festivals and dozens of events in between, is all about blues on and off the beaten path. This year, observant fans “in the know” could have experienced an up-close-and personal show with one of the great, longstanding legends of blues music.
Along with his famous dancers, Rush powered through blues staples including “Mannish Boy” and “She’s Nineteen Years Old”, and even threw in a few unexpected but thrilling extras. “Some of you like that rap stuff, huh?” he asks from the stage, his light blue sequined suit sparkling under the stage lights. “Well if you like that, you oughtta know: they stole that rap stuff from me and James Brown!” as he bursts into a funky dance line while rapping a few verses. Belting harmonica and, at one point, slow-burning a sultry song while playing a guitar in a matching color of his suit, Rush thrilled the audience.
“I haven’t been to Club Ebony for… ten, fifteen years!” he tells American Blues Scene before the show. “Great to be back.” Feeling comfortable and at home, the legend danced, kicked his legs, jumped across the stage, and even moonwalked with a sequined Michael Jackson glove on to a decidedly Bobby Rush version of “Thriller”.
Rush closed out the night with an extra-long version of his famous “Night Fishin’,” whipping the crowd into a finale finish. He stuck around until the bar closed to enjoy speaking with the audience, shaking hands, and signing merchandise. His powerful performance, and the many more to come at Club Ebony, will surely last in hearts and minds for years to come.