Seasick Steve — Soho Revue Bar, Thursday 10/​​07/​​08

The main problem with most of the music that appears by our ears every day is that it doesn’t come from anywhere. It doesn’t force its way out through the body of the messenger, cross a mountain range and still have the energy to slap us in the face. No. Instead it limps through the radio waves and settles in front of us in a neat little bundle, with a carefully handwritten note reading ‘please listen to me.’ It doesn’t look tired, or bedraggled, or like it’s suffered in its long journey to us. All too often there’s nothing there because it hasn’t come from anywhere. It wasn’t born, but was conceived and then stuffed in a test tube. There are exceptions to this, and they qualify as such because in each one you will see the song’s birthplace like a beating core in the centre, inseparable from whichever form it is now surrounded by.

A few Saturdays ago in a field in Somerset, a collection of these exceptions were unleashed from the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury festival to an adoring audience. ‘They told me there was 65 000 people there watchin’ me that day,’ mused Steve Wold, aka Seasick Steve, at a recent small scale gig in the heart of Soho, London. ‘Thing is, I don’t care if I’m playin’ to 65 000 people or just 65, it’s all good.’ Usually, Gigwise take comments such as this with a pinch of salt, but in this case we get the impression he’s telling the truth. He probably barely noticed.

Tonight’s show is in a former strip joint filled with a camera crew and a seated audience, and is a strange affair. Despite this, Steve plays through most of his new album “Started Out With Nothin’ and I Still Got Most of It Left” with the vigour and passion you’d expect to see if he was playing to afford his next meal. On stage we have the pleasure of two female backing singers plucked straight from the heart of the U.S, with percussion from “Animal from The Muppets” (his words not mine!) as well as Steve’s ever faithful son.
The songs themselves erupt through Steve’s body in an almost uncontrollable manner. Hushed blues ditties such as ‘Fly By Night’ barely reach more than a whisper, but the facial expressions indicate that they’re coming from a source deep inside. One lucky young lady is invited to the stage to hear ‘Walking Man’ sung to her up close and personal, an old trick Steve has stuck to for some time now without it ever getting tired or predictable. Life lessons, such as how to deal with Chiggers (some type of little bugs apparently, I assume they’re yet to make it to London) and their bites are dispensed to us in a way that makes Gigwise think that with this man as a companion we could get through anything. The encore consists of the spectacular ‘Dog House,’ a rollicking tale that leaves the whole audience ecstatically breathless even if they have heard it many times before.

There’s no reason to comment in depth on this man’s appearance, accent, or the tales of hardship that sometimes appear. The songs have been born from experience, and the man himself is exactly how you’d imagine him. Even if the package is bordering on a gimmick, it’s a gimmick with its feet still stamped firmly in reality rather than in a marketing meeting. If Gigwise are honest, sometimes it’s nice to receive the neat little bundles of music we described at the start of this article, especially if it looks nice in pretty packaging. However, when music such as tonight’s offerings are delivered in such a raw and beautiful manner, you have to wonder why we bother with anything else.

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