“You ready for some real hillbilly shit?”, Getintothis’ Ash Turner bears witness to the unrelenting one man blues-rock juggernaut, Seasick Steve at Liverpool Philharmonic.
Seasick Steve (Wold) shines a torch on the hardships and hard graft of true hobo living stating “Hobos are people who move around looking for work, tramps are people who move around but don’t look for work, and bums are people who don’t move and don’t work. I’ve been all three.“
While unfair to say that Seasick Steve came to light in 2006 after his appearance on Jools Holland’s Hootenany, with countless session and production credits since the mid-60’s and the release of his first solo album Cheap in 2001, it can’t be denied that his rise since that performance was meteoric. Subsequently winning a MOJO award for best breakthrough artist in 2007, Seasick Steve then went on to be the most prolific performer on that year’s festival circuit, playing more dates than any other artist and displaying his grafter’s ethic.
Touring the UK in the wake of his 7th studio release Sonic Soul Surfer, a stripped back and guttural offering bursting with attitude.
Supporting this evening and worth more than just a quick mention were Amsterdam trio My Baby providing an impassioned, soul infused blues rock with some breathtaking vocal work courtesy of Cato van Dyck. The band were discovered in The Netherlands in 2012 by none other that Sly and the Family Stone’s Larry Graham and it’s clear to see why. My Baby played tight groove orientations transitioning seamlessly and teaming with funk and psych rock influences.
Despite her age and slight stature Cato van Dyck has a voice that strikes you speechless, with a power, soul and near endless sustain. So too the drums and guitars were handled brilliantly by Daniel da Freez and Jost van Dyck, the percussion in particular for me was a real treat, displaying a well versed understanding of a wide variety of schools.
It is difficult to listen to My Baby without hearing some heavyweight influences however due to their make up, Jefferson Airplane and Fleetwood Mac coming immediately to mind. Nevertheless a unique outfit and a perfect complement to Seasick Steve’s country/blues-rock fusion.
Striding on stage slowly and purposefully to a rapturous applause Seasick Steve calmly takes his seat. At 73, Steve performs with a vitality and enthusiasm of a man half is age and shows no signs of slowing; arming himself with a fantastic array of homemade instruments from the hub-cap guitar complete with Christmas decorations, broomstick banjo and famed 3-String Trance Wonder, with a bottle of red wine for good measure.
With nought but a wry smile, he begins with Sonic Soul Surfer’s opening track Treasures while the audience listens on in captivated silence. A laid back and more intricate affair than was perhaps to be expected was accompanied by the woody and emotive melodies of wonderful ‘mountain fiddle’ player Georgina Leech.
Before starting his second song Steve took a moment to talk to the crowd, a dynamic typical to his performances and a great opportunity to experience the charisma and charm that seems to come to him so naturally. Arming himself with the first of many home-made instruments, this one I shall call the skiffletar concocted from a washboard with a single heavy gauge string, and strapping himself up with a thimble and plaster Steve asks “You ready for some real hillbilly shit?“, the resounding response was a uproarious “Hell yeah!”.
From that moment on it was a raucous ride, with the vagabond storyteller narrating the adventures and misadventures that inspired the music between jams. Barracuda ’68 in particular had a fun origin, explaining that when he was younger he had a friend who worked for Boeing at the time and could therefore afford a half decent car, in this case a Barracuda ’68. Explaining that as gas was only 22c a gallon in 1969, for fun they would drive to an old abandoned airfield where they would turn up Hendrix on the 8 track and reverse in circles until the gas ran out while “stone cold sober...” Barracuda ’68 live was a thundering 8 minute maelstrom full of visceral slide work, whoops and yells that sits as perfectly in a stage setting as it does on record.
The fantastic Dan Magnusson provided some incredible drum work throughout the night with a virtuoso aplomb that, although impressive sat a little awkwardly with the band dynamic and came across a little overplayed in places.
The roadworn love song Walking Man turned into a weekend highlight for one Liverpool local as she was invited from the crowd to sit next to Steve for an intimate serenade while struggling greatly to hide her excitement.
Ever humble, Steve took us through the events leading up to his infamous 2006 Hootenany appearance explaining that the energy of that eponymous performance was fuelled by a dissatisfaction with his playing leading to him trying to finish his set early by playing faster and throwing his guitar down afterwards. Steve explains “…turns out if you play fast and throw guitars around on stage people love you“. This segued perfectly in to an updated version of Dog House Song with which he made that pivotal performance in 2006 before closing with a tender rendition of a song sung by a “pretty young thing I knew” which served as the soundtrack to his hobo days.
A one man blues-rock juggernaut, Seasick Steve still kicks harder than many of his younger peers well into his free bus pass years, and demonstrated once again just why we love him so much.