It was early on a Tuesday night in Birmingham, stuck in a queue outside the new O2, traffic whizzing past, and the wrong side of a cold breeze. You would think I would mind but I was waiting to see the “song and dance man” himself, Seasick Steve.
Walking into the gig you are confronted with a simple set — lights twinkling quietly at the back and a few spots. Nothing extravagant, nothing exaggerated. That fits the night perfectly, no warm up act, only Seasick Steve stepping out dressed unassumingly asking us why we aren’t at the Muse gig (at the NIA).
Settling down by himself, in the spotlight, he eases us in with the title track from his new album Man From Another Time. ‘Someone asked if I got a Ferrari yet. I said no but I got a tractor’ and as smoothly as that we were into “Big Green and Yeller”. A hairy Dan Magnusson appeared in the background to take on the drums. “Happy To Have A Job” sounds like a perfect track in these times of economic woe; with the up-tempo sliding blues and Seasick Steve’s lung bursting Californian voice bouncing over the top, the crowd began to grow.
Seasick Steve’s modesty was evident from the start and this continued with him passing us over to double bassist Amy LaVere (who he promptly informs us can drink more than him hands down) and his son Paul Wold for portions of the night, with him playing support or watching from the side. Even Dan Magnusson was at it later, with an impromptu drum solo on some beer buckets.
With the up-tempo sliding blues and Seasick Steve’s lung bursting Californian voice bouncing over the top, the crowd began to grow.
Any chance of the crowd drifting away rapidly disappears as he comes back with “That’s All”, and the applause was deafening by the end of it. Steve is up on his feet, takes a bow for us, and the response is immediate — ‘Ste-vo, Ste-vo, Ste-vo’. ‘Guys you’re embarrassing me’ — maybe we were, but it doesn’t stop him removing his shirt. Now clad in a vest and his customary ‘John Deere’ cap, he looks like a man on a mission and he has a young woman from the crowd up on stage before we know it for his customary serenade of “Walkin’ Man”, followed quickly by “Started out with Nothing” and then “Chiggers”. “I wear my socks up to my knees, but they still make a motel out of me” is an unforgettable warning to all US bound travelers about the perils of tics!
After a quick interval, he’s back out again, the bottle of whiskey at his side diminishing, and with the one string diddley bo’ in his lap, then the slightly more versatile cigar box guitar for “Never Go West” and finally old faithful the 3-string trance wonder for “Cut My Wings”. All bluesy affairs, with those peculiar and strangely appropriate instruments, that typify everything about the gig and artist. I challenge anyone to not start tapping a foot from the thigh down — ask Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant, he was standing not too far from me.
Ending the night on the phenomenal “Dog House Boogie” with the crowd yelling back the chorus as Seasick Steve and co. left the stage was just perfect…