Thursday, May 14, 2009

Steve Forbert @ Joe's Pub

photo: Lisa Birnbach's Blackberry

Perhaps its something about Joe's that makes every show feel like you are going to see someone you know. "Let's all go and see Steve play at Joe's Pub." Steve who? - A rare stone against first-name familiarity is unavoidable - It doesn't matter. "He's some friend of Lisa's, I imagine."

But no one knew Steve at all, despite calls of "How you holdin' up, Steve?" etc. from the audience. And his reply: "Good." Steve's fans of 20 years had come out to cheer and chomp 30 dollar steaks. They had autographs on their minds, and boomer cash for as many of the 28 studio albums that might be served up at the merch table buffet after the show. I was one of the few seeing him for the first time, perhaps a little younger than the average, more likely to come home and download some free tunes (see below), certainly unwilling to slurp orechiette during a performance.

photo: Lisa Birnbach's Blackberry

And the performance was exactly what you would expect from a veteran: almost automatic control over his guitar and vocals, but with a flare that showed nothing was over-rehearsed. The songs are a little hard to qualify, as they span the 1980's and 1990's (Forbert had a #11 hit in 1980 with "Romeo's Tune", back when the charts still existed). I think he has retained a very youthful and impassioned stage persona, which adds such a spark to the emotional lyric moments of the tunes. He also looks exactly the same as when he played the boyfriend in Cindy Lauper's 1983 video for "Girls Just Want To Have Fun." But the tunes DO have emotion - perhaps at times in place of being ironic or aloof. Indie rock isn't so much into that right now, but from a guy like Forbert I both believe and enjoy it. I wouldn't be shocked if that sensibility came back again in the future. Let's face it, it's all very cyclical.

I happened to be at the show with some newer converts. When Lisa yelled for "There's Everybody Else And Then There's You," he obliged. This obviously unleashed the crowd to do the same, and he did his best. I began to consider "music careers." There were some 150 souls at Joe's that night. Sold out. How lucky he is, really. Judging by the way music fans are evolving, it's not as certain that some of today's young guys will be able to earn the same type of cabbage 30 years into the future.

With only one other musician on stage (didn't catch his name), Forbert played the entire show in cowboy boots perched atop an inch-thick wooden mat, complete with microphone. This combined with chewing and "SHH" noises from the audience created an interesting percussive backdrop. I nursed a hope that an overzealous stomp might loose a burger into a front row lap, but it never happened.

"Romeo's Tune Live" by Steve Forbert Download mp3
"Barbara Allen" by Steve Forbert Download mp3

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