Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Seasick Steve - Paradiso, 7 May 2013
So when someone tells you that Seasick Steve is actually 71 years old, it stops you in your tracks. Here is a man who is making fantastic music and riding an amazing wave of success after having spent a lot of time living on the streets, or at least not in a very wealthy position. And now here he stands (well actually sits) in front of you, as a bloke enjoying life to the full.
Having previously caught a Jool’s Holland segment which included Seasick Steve, and just quietly having been pretty impressed, I was very keen to finally be able to catch him in the flesh, and playing at my favorite home town venue. So when tickets went on sale I jumped at them with both hands.
Harking back to some of my concert going rules…. everything that was being played musically “pre show” seemed to ring true, other than the support act who wasn’t the best although maybe I caught them on a bad night. So as I thought about the disks that were spinning I thought, anytime I get to hear Muddy Watters and an array of different old “serious” blue artists it is fantastic and it had to set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Just after 8:30 Steve shuffled onto stage and I am not going to lie, there was more than a few people who turned to each other and wonder, who is this old homeless dude?
But never judge a book by its cover, as soon as he picks up the guitar you realize that this is no ordinary homeless dude, this dude can really make that guitar scream the blues.
Not only that but also it is Steve’s ability to build his guitars out of seemingly nothing that is incredible. Further to that point, I watched the array of various guitars were bought out by the roady one after the other, with the piece de résistance being the newest addition, the one made out of two hubcaps. This was clearly the inspiration for his new album title Hubcap Music…or was that just another coincidence?
I mean there is one thing to be able to play a musical instrument but there is another thing to be able to fashion one out of what ever you can find, pure genius.
And there in front of me adorned in a checked shirt (with mussel shirt underneath) and wearing a John Deer hat and not only that but also professing to now own one of the very tractors them self, I mean this was a salt of the earth kind of guy, one that may hand never had a lot but cherished what he had.
If I had to describe his music style (and I guess that’s exactly what I am doing) it would be Southern Blues. And I mean the Deep South, there is no home, or I have no home blues. At various times I had moments when I thought it was very reminiscent of Ben Harper the first time I saw him (minus the Jimmy Hendrix cover, but instead I felt there may have been a ZZ top song he was “covering”…). The other band that I felt the show was very reminisint of was that of the early Black Keys shows. Now maybe this was because it was just Steve and the Drummer on stage but I felt it was also the huge sound they were bringing.
At one point in the evenings festivities Steve brought up a young girl onto the stage…to sing her a love song, and his charm and wit was on full display. And just to be very clear he was very respectful to her…but when it came to her rather Dutch name, well that was going to be a little bit too hard so he just called her Beth.
I love to see performers make their opinion clear when a crowd is not paying enough attention. Occasionally I have seen a few Australian performers who may have taken it a bit to far, but still it is nice to see someone point out that everyone has paid money to be their, so why aren’t they paying attention. In Steve’s case he just started singing “Blah blah blah, Blah blah blah” and then asked why would you come to a concert just speak to your friends…god you could do that for free. And then there was his cheeky little laugh…. It was brilliant.
Later in the show there was the obligatory ….yada yada…. “I love that I come to Holland to play music. It use to be that I could just play London but now can come across to here and I love it… And I will keep coming back. Again and again”. Now maybe I am reading too much into this but it just didn’t feel like this part of the show (pandering to the crowds ego) was right up his ally…who knows maybe I am wrong.
And whilst Steve does not play (what seems to me) the most complex songs it does feel pretty emotional stuff and I cant help but think that there is a wee bit of a similarity with the great late Ted Hawkins, a man who lived on the bones of his arse for so long only to finally get recognition towards the very later part of his life.
Trying to capture his expressions in photos was not that hard, he is having fun, but I couldn’t help but wonder if it has always been the case, I guess not. And here is a 71 year old doing what he appears to love. And yes he is a whiley salty dog of a man who has seen a lot, a man who has a lot more to give. And if this is Seasick Steve, then I want more…