Monday, May 7, 2012

Steve Strongman, Live in Hamilton

Steve Strongman has introduced his new releases at Hamilton Place's Studio theatre for quite a while now. We've attended almost all of them. The audience is always filled with family and friends, neighbours and fans, so a good time is virtually guaranteed. He shows every time that he is following the advice given to him by his mentor Mel Brown, "Strong-Man, he called me Strong-Man, give the people what they want!" That he does. So when the people called out for both "Birthday Song" and "River" as encore choices, he said, "What the hell, I'll play 'em both." It took a long time, though, to get to the encore. Steve is looking prosperous these days, wearing a fine pair of Italian shoes, silk socks and a new grey suit. One imagines he treated himself to this finery after winning the Maple Blues Award for Best Blues Guitarist a month or so ago. He came out on a stage that was dressed up with some plants, and an old wooden dresser he found earlier that day sitting on the side of the road, marked 'FREE'. Homey! The new album is an acoustic affair. Steve played an acoustic for five years before switching to electric guitar, and says he still "loves the sound" and I love it too. He started things off playing a 12-string on "Haven't Seen It Yet" a tune from the new A Natural Fact CD. He would go on to play all 12 of that album's tracks, but that was the point of the was a CD release party, and the merch table had plenty of CDs for sale! He switched to the old Gibson J45 for a few songs, then blew harp and sang "Just One Thing" before bringing out the band.
His band was made up of olf compatriots and relatives. Colin Lappsley played a cool electronic stand-up bass, and added backup vocals; Dave King drummed alternating between a pair of brushes and the heaviest drumsticks I've ever seen. My wife said they looked like hockey sticks! And they had a beat you might imagine hockey sticks would have. Steve's cousin, the brilliant pianist Jesse O'Brien tinkled the 88s, and you might've thought it was Dr. John sitting on the bench. Jesse always adds to the excitement when he joins the band. Steve strapped on a thin-line cutaway Guild for "Full of You" and would alternate between this axe and a shiny new resonator guitar for much of the band set. Whatever guitar he held, he played beautifully. His finger-picking is precise, and his slide playing stings. He definitely understands dynamics and is not afraid of sharing the solo space with Jesse O'Brien who was his usual marvelous self. This is not to take away from Dave and Colin who provided solid support throughout the night. Everyone on-stage and off had a fine time.
As the clock edged toward 10:30 Steve and the band played a few older songs from Honey and Blues In Colour to keep the people satisfied. They were fired up and filled with energy, that was contagious. After the three song encore, we filed into the night, stopping only to pickup our own copy of A Natural fact. I should mention the opening act, local bluesman Alfie Smith whose gruff voice, and startling finger-picked country blues set the stage for Steve's more urban sound. All in all a fine evening of blues music.

No comments: