Casual music lover Harry Casey-Woodward was lucky enough to see bearded bluesman Seasick Steve playing in our merry capital at Wembley Stadium…
Apart from Elvis, there is perhaps no other musician who embodies the American dream than Seasick Steve. In particular, he embodies the mythical spirit of American freedom, that gets lost on highways and hitches on trains. In October, this big-bearded icon graced our shores with a one-off show.
After fruitlessly circling the wrong Wembley arena, me and my companion found the right venue. We were introduced by Steve himself on a giant screen to his support act, a two-man band named Black Dog Revelation. They sounded like a gnarly Black Keys with slow snarling songs powered by thunderous drums.
After they rocked the house, we were treated to a video of Steve driving up to the venue in a tractor before he walked on stage to deafening applause. He started off with some politics, voicing his disapproval of Trump before opening his set with a hushed Dylanesque solo song.
Steve and his small handful of musicians then proceeded to turn the cavernous venue into a warm, cosy atmosphere. Steve was as relaxed as if he was playing in your front room. The lighting helped too. The stage was backlit by simple but pleasant fairy lights, draped as if over a tree. The most striking lighting was used when Steve played solo songs like ‘Treasures’. One spotlight would light him up in the middle of the dark venue, making him look dramatically humble.
Humble is something Steve is very good at. More than once, he asked for the spotlights to sweep his cheering audience and appeared constantly stunned at their adoration. He came close to tears when he expressed gratitude for his slot on the Jools Holland show that got him exposure.
He was also good at being kickass during his louder songs like ‘Thunderbird’. He and his giant bearded drummer lost themselves in colossal solos as they thrashed their instruments, even the homemade ones Steve expressed fondness for like his Diddley Bo.
His most stunning performance was when he pulled a random woman from the crowd and played her a tender rendition of ‘Walkin’ Man’. The lucky lass looked as if she would melt from tearful gratitude.
Other ladies who joined Steve onstage included a singing guitarist from Glasgow who played a cover of a Steve song she had already done on YouTube, which Steve had admired. There was also a gifted filly on the fiddle and a talented square dancer who could tap along to Steve’s songs with her shoes.
The gig ended with Steve being given a cake, showing us a picture of his tractor and playing ‘Dog House Boogie’, which took a while to finish since he forced his drummer to repeat faster and faster endings.
So despite drunken calls of ‘Steeeeeeve-oooooh’ and one or two fights (one of which broke out in front of our seats) the gig was an evening of musical magic and thrilling musicianship. It was also a pleasure to be in the company of such a character like Seasick Steve.
Images from bluesmagazine.nl.