There are two things in music, and indeed life in general, that are hard not to love: an underdog and something that breaks away from the norm. A former hobo in his seventies that plays the blues on instruments made from junk certainly fits in both of those categories. Against all the odds Seasick Steve has been one of the leading figures in the latest blues revival and become a much-loved public figure. I caught this colourful character on his latest UK tour in support of his new album ‘Sonic Soul Surfer’.
At times I felt out of place as a large percentage of the audience could pass as Steve lookalikes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much grey facial hair in a room before. Thankfully there were some other youthful faces in the room in the form of Dutch band My Baby. Halfway through their first song they were already the best opening act I’ve seen; then the lead singer appeared. She strolled onstage like she had just performed a set at Woodstock and delivered a powerhouse vocal performance. She could hold the high notes for at least twice as long as I could hold my breath. Backed by a great rolling drum beat and some top notch slide guitar, and with various jam breaks and changes in speed and time signature, they kept the audience on their toes. The only thing letting them down was the songwriting. If they had a hit song to sink their teeth into then they could be massive. Definitely a one to watch.
Once the roadies had set up some an old wooden chair that was probably older than I am, Steve took to the stage. He may have been seated for most of the show but he’s still spry for his age. Once he had a guitar in his hand he was full of energy and exuberance and played his many instruments to the edge of breaking point. Although that isn’t saying much having seen them. I knew he made his own guitars but I hadn’t really appreciated what utter junk they were. I’m shocked he could even get them in tune, nevermind play such unparalleled blues. The setlist mostly comprised of his new songs, and though there were a few songs that I wish he played, there were still plenty of old favourites too. Chief among them were ‘Thunderbird’ and ‘Dog House Boogie’.
As great as the music was the highlight was Steve himself. We listened intently to the stories of his misspent youth as he took deep swigs out of a bottle of wine. He’s such an intriguing individual and we all basked in his presence. As well as bringing out a record player to play a song from his new LP (before playing it properly), he also chose at random a woman from the audience to come up onstage and be serenaded by a love song. He thanked the audience several times for helping his rapid journey from unemployment to music stardom. Really I think his success is karma, it’s the world giving something back to such a talented and lovable person. He represents the underdog in all of us, he’s a young soul in an old man’s body. He’s something genuine and refreshing and it’s no wonder than his fan base is constantly growing.