Tuesday, April 14, 2009
May I be the first to call shenanigans? Probably not, but there is something amidst the hubris of a Seasick Steve performance that for this listener rings false. The story runs so: Steve leaves home at 13 to escape beatings from his stepfather and lives a hobo’s life until the late sixties when he moved to California and then Seattle as he became involved in music scenes, befriending Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell and Kurt Cobain on the way. While all this may be true, it’s the how much he plays up to the tobacco-chewing, overall and trucker cap-wearing, stereotype of a southern American that rankles and throws doubt on his hazy claims. “Never met a rich man that I liked,” he sings on Last Po’ Man. Must hate himself right now. His use of broken down malfunctioning equipment as a sign of authenticity is odd for a man pushing a million record sales. Still, this is what he is, an ex-hobo showman of the highest order, and hot dang are a lot of people buying it.
This isn’t to say a Seasick Steve show isn’t good. It’s fan-fucking-tastic. He whoops and wails, stamps and curses, grumbles, swigs whiskey and wipes his mouth like you’d hope a living remnant from the American south would. ‘How many of you came here expectin’ a blues band?’ he grins to a rafter-packed Corner. He also doesn’t take to people talking during his show and picks on a few chatty members with a foul-mouthed sincerity matched only by his genuine gratefulness at the show’s end. ‘It sho’ has bin a pleasure playin’ fo yoo,’ he says before diving into the gently plucked ballad My Youth. It’s his youth that he’s trading on here, having not jumped a train for over 35 years or so, but his showmanship is brilliant, you’d feel he’d done it yesterday he way he explains references in his songs with crackling banter boozy charm.
The songs are entirely autobiographical, and tonight’s selection peaks with Boss, a song about the death of his dog that sees him put down the guitar, push away the microphone and walk amongst the whooping crowd as he sings the refrain. Chiggers let’s you know how to avoid bug bites in Tennessee while My Name Is Steve sees him serenade a bashful audience member as brilliantly intuitive drummer Dan Magnusson follows. Entertainment? Damn right. Informative too.