Live Review: Rosanne Cash, Philadelphia, PA, Jan. 26, 2024

Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal made 1993’s The Wheel when they were first falling for one another, so it’s no wonder that the couple wanted to do something special to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

With the masters back in Cash’s possession as of last year, they launched their own label, RumbleStrip, with plans to update and rerelease the record with more modern production techniques, release Leventhal’s solo debut (at 71!) and share stories and songs from the album that brought them together on a jaunt cleverly titled Reinventing The Wheel, including a November date at World Cafe Live.

But then life intervened, as it so often does in Cash’s beautifully crafted lyrics, and they needed to sit tight for a while she recovered from knee surgery.

By the time they got to Philly, just a couple months later than planned, they had other things on their minds, so tunes from The Wheel represented just a quarter of the 16-song set. But what great songs they are (“Tears Falling Down,” “You Won’t Let Me In,” “If There’s A God On My Side” and, of course, “The Wheel”), all grouped together and each one sounding better than the last.

There’s no denying it: Whether clad in early-‘90s production, restyled for the 2020s or stripped down to the basics of two guitars and two voices, these are solid songs that sound great in any light. In the hands of these two pros, they can stand tall among the classics.

Cash and Leventhal proved that with a covers-heavy set that included some of the indelible numbers she took on for 2009’s The List, inspired by the list of required listening compiled by her legendary dad (Lefty Frizzell’s “Long Black Veil,” Don Gibson’s “Sea of Heartbreak” and Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On”), as well as a couple ringers (Bob Dylan’s “Farewell, Angelina” and the Beatles’ “And Your Bird Can Sing”).

One of the best songs of the night came from before the couple met (the title track from 1981’s Seven Year Ache), while other standouts were relatively recent (“A Feather’s Not A Bird” and “The Sunken Lands,” both from 2014’s The River & The Thread). The newest of all was “That’s All I Know About Arkansas,” the single inclusion from Leventhal’s solo album, Rumble Strip, which just so happed to be released the day of the show.

On time, intentionally a beat behind or untethered to the calendar altogether, Cash and Leventhal performed with grace, humor, warmth and chemistry, and it was a pleasure to spend the evening with them.

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich