Whole Lotta Love
Rose and Co. began 2020 with a few warmup shows ahead of the official start of the American Rock ‘N Soul Tour with Them Vibes set for 20 March at Denver’s Lost Lake Lounge. Of course, that never happened. The cancellations continued in Steamboat Springs, Indianapolis, Chicago, and even a prime date with Bob Weir & Wolf Bros in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. While Rose was essentially grounded — like the rest of the world — she did find creative ways to keep her music alive — like during her Salute the Songbird podcasts or appearing on Marcus King’s Four of a Kind streaming concert series.
So when she returned to the road earlier than many artists in 2021, Rose thought it was “a little symbolic” to make Denver her first stop outside Nashville — with two shows before actual crowds in one night at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom on 16th April. I also was thrilled to finally hear the sounds of concert music again after missing out since Amanda Shires played Denver’s Bluebird Theater on 2 March 2020.
It didn’t matter that pods were set up with small tables and plastic barriers at Cervantes to maintain social distancing. Bar orders were taken via text and “reminders” — including “Once you’re seated, you MUST remain at your designated table throughout the performance unless you’re visiting the restroom” — were posted. The sellout crowd for the two-hour late show that I attended “was so awesome and enthusiastic,” Rose recalls. “It was so euphoric just to make [live] music again.”
Sneak preview performances of eight Have a Seat songs such as sublime show opener “For Your Consideration” (the video trilogy finale) were played, along with covers of Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved”, the Box Tops’ “The Letter”, Bill Withers’ “Let Us Love” and a brief chorus of Lenny Kravitz’s “Let Love Rule” at the end of the regular set. Obviously, there was a whole lotta love there.
Guests also were treated to special appearances by saxophonist Nicholas Gerlach and trumpeter Gabriel Mervine before Andy Frasco (wearing a No. 33 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Lakers jersey) and his U.N. guitarist Shawn Eckels came out for the opening encore of “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” that lasted nearly ten minutes.
Frasco, who did his best to turn the stage into a disco dance floor, met Rose when they performed at the 2019 Peach Music Festival. They did some livestreams together and she was a guest on his World Saving Podcast this February as their friendship developed.
“It’s so wild how, like we’ve known of each other, but we really connected when we couldn’t physically be together,” reflects Rose, whose stirring cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” capped the captivating evening at Cervantes. “So that was another reason that the Denver show was so awesome because Andy was able to physically get onstage with us and we were able to kind of have that kind of crossing-the-finish-line moment together.”
Taking a Serious Stance
Now that she’s back touring on (hopefully) a regular basis, including Thursday (19 August) at Nashville’s Brooklyn Bowl for a celebratory album release party, a considerate Rose appreciates what it means to be onstage again.
“I think still that there’s a lot about the arts that just seem to be kind of put on the back-burner, and understandably so,” she contends. “If you need to prioritize, then that’s not a matter of life and death, but it’s definitely a matter of a lot of people making their living. It takes a village to put on these shows. It’s not just me hurting. …
“So we’re seeing the residual effects of that very much. Just being able to overcome in some way, it feels like a triumph, and I’m grateful in a way that I’ve never been before. I’ve always loved doing this. That’s undeniable but I will never again take it for granted. … To do what we’re doing is something the whole band is really nurturing and taking care of and appreciating. … The way that the audience treats us and the way they treat each other, it’s really something.”
Yet on the day when Stevie Nicks withdrew from solo appearances at major festivals like Shaky Knees in Atlanta and Austin City Limits (where Rose still plans to play), Nashville’s own ascending songbird addressed the serious health concerns that understandably remain for many artists as coronavirus variants develop.
“I’m standing in solidarity with the venues who are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative [COVID-19] test, especially if we’re gonna be inside, we’re packing it in and not socially distancing,” maintains Rose, whose appearance at Nashville’s AmericanaFest in September could include showcases at some of the cool but crammed clubs like the High Watt and the Basement. During her second visit to the event after a 2019 debut — when she followed Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile at 3rd & Lindsley — Rose will not only sing her heart out but also offer her perspective on important issues at one of the many panel discussions held that week at the Westin Nashville.
She also plans to return that week to the Grand Ole Opry, where the face of cooperative collaborators has performed more than 80 times, while adding with a laugh, “I need to get the official count.” But in the post-pandemic era, nothing is certain.
“I think that’s just the right move,” Rose confidently conveys regarding her safety stance. “You need to make a decision one way or the other and that’s the one that I’ve made, and my band is backing me up on that. It’s certainly not the most joyful thing that you want to say when you’re trying to get people to come out to your shows, but I also need to protect my band and the audience and the bands that are gonna be in those venues before and after I’m there.
“My band is vaccinated, I’m vaccinated, I’ll be wearing a mask when I’m in a close crowd. Like I’m doing that already right now even as I run errands in Nashville. … It’s not something to be taken lightly and I think that my mind has to remain open as these developments come.”
Whether she’ll have a seat or take a stand, Rose finally has positioned herself to get heard — and expect that galvanized voice to sound loud and clear.