John Walsh once again provides a guest review of a performance at The Adelphia. This time, the concert with Steve Forbert this past Saturday, Feb. 12, with opening set by Sasha Colette.
Two of the very cool benefits of being a serious local musician with close ties to the premier local music venue (The Adelphia) and having music friends like Todd Burge are:
1. I get exposed to a whole range of new music across a variety of genres, often performed by phenomenal musicians – mostly local folks (local to wherever their locale is, that is) who possess amazing songwriting and performing skills.
2. Every once in a while, I get to meet and have – albeit for a fleeting handful of moments – a unique access to musical heroes of mine. Back in November of last year, for example, I not only got to hang with Lucy Kaplansky, I had the honor of being her opening act. Without question, the highlight of my performing life so far (thanks again Todd)!
This past Saturday, The Adelphia, once again, afforded both of these benefits to me and everyone else who attended the Steve Forbert and Sasha Colette show. This event was the third installment of The Adelphia’s Intimate Concert Series. This show – a “listening event,” – was also recorded live for Todd Burge’s Songwriternight.com podcast series.
Sasha Colette opened up the show with a gorgeous collection of original songs. Sasha came to the playbill by way of recommendation by John Lilly – a board member of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame and, himself, a notable West Virginia purveyor of traditional/Americana music. Sasha, who hails from Olive Hill, Kentucky, has caught the attention of folks in the Mountain Stage circle. Judging from Saturday’s performance, it is easy to see how.
Ms. Colette is a sweet mix of hillbilly meets hippie. Her songs emanate country and blues in a fashion where each genre is identifiable, yet complementary – in the way these two styles courted each other before they merged to give birth to rock n’ roll. Colette’s voice is a bit smoky, a bit sultry, and, above all, has a sweetness to it. Her voice is the primary instrument in her one-woman band (she accompanied herself on guitar and 5-string, open back banjo) and it beautifully conveys her songs.
Sasha captivated the audience with her song “Pork Meat & Bacon Grease,” which is full of hill-folky whimsy and clever lyrical turns. After the show, Sasha said she had that song shelved for sometime. Given the audience’s reaction to the song, I’ll bet it stays on her set list for the foreseeable future.
I didn’t get to hear Sasha’s last song because Todd asked me to fetch Steve Forbert from “the Green Room,” which is on the second floor of The Galley/The Adelphia complex. Gladly accepting this mission, I have to admit I had a few butterflies flutter as I tapped on the door to Steve’s temporary domain. After all, I’ve admired and listened to Forbert since “Romeo’s Tune” started getting airplay in late 1979. He’s on my “most admired” songwriters list and has been for many years. Now, I’m about to come face to face with him – a little nervous? Hell, yeah.
Steve opened the door and said, “John?” I shook his hand and said, “yes sir, good to meet you.” He asked me for a minute as he checked to make sure he had his shirt on straight and his hair cooperating.
Once he was ready, we headed down the stairwell to the main floor. He told me on the way he was going to just get up on the darkened stage at the break and tune his guitar. Cool with me. We came up behind the stage through the ancillary kitchen. As soon as we got to the door, Steve says, “we ready?” and bolts through the door to the stage. Only problem with that exhuberance…Sasha was still performing her last song. Steve bolted right back out the door and says, “ man, she’s still playing!” Truly, I didn’t have a chance to stop him.
Next time I play backstage manager, I will stay in front of the artist, so I can run interference until we know what’s going on. No big deal, a few minutes later Todd came back and said that no one really noticed it was so quick. While we waited for Sasha to finish, I told Steve that, while I know he hears this all the time, I’ve been listening to him since “Romeo” and admired him for what seems like forever. He said that seeing how he’s been on the road and performing for the last 30 some years, it is has been a relative “forever” given our respective ages. How true.
I mentioned to him that I had a vivid memory of listening to him while stationed with the Air Force in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Forbert was in heavy rotation on a fantastic acoustic-rock station broadcasting from the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley, Colorado – about 50 miles south of Cheyenne. Specifically, I recall listening a lot to “Goin’ Down to Laurel,” to this day my favorite Forbert song. Steve said he could “probably do that tune” for me and asked me what Cheyenne was like. I thought it was mighty kind and somewhat amazing that he wanted to engage in that conversation just minutes before taking the stage. I think this speaks to the kind of guy Steve Forbert must be.
Steve took the stage and took hold of the audience immediately. He’s an animated and energetic performer, playing his signature beat-to-hell Gibson J-45 like its an extension of his own body. Man, that guitar sounds good! That rig has a million miles on it, but it seems like its just hitting its sweet spot. Steve’s vocal and guitar style are quite similar to Bruce Springsteen’s. They both push their expressiveness from somewhere deep inside. Watching Steve sing and play is to watch music being wrought on an anvil into something tough, but beautiful.
Steve’s songs are generally upbeat and sardonic. He did indeed play “Goin’ Down to Laurel,” which exclaims, “I’m goin’ down to Laurel, it’s a dirty, stinking town – but me, I know exactly what I’m gonna find…” Then, Steve can effortlessly sing a heartbreaking song like “It Isn’t Gonna Be That Way,” which – in my opinion was the standout song of the evening.
Forbert’s set was roughly 90 minutes. He rambled through a series of Forbert classics, including: “You Cannot Win (If You Do Not Play);” “Blackbird Tune;” “Stolen Identity;” three Jimmy Rodgers’ Tunes (including “Any Old Time”); and The “Jessica” Song. I’m not sure of the actual title of the “Jessica” song, but he had the whole crowd singing backup vocals, “J-E-S-S-I-C-A…” My friends who came, who were not familiar with Steve prior to the concert, were fans by the time the show was over.
Steve finished the set with his timeless classic “Romeo’s Tune.” Then he was coaxed back out for an encore by an effusive audience. He played “30 More Years,” singing “…We spin around the sun and call each trip we make a year. 30 more years of this, people, and I’m out of here.”
Take your time Steve – we’re not through listening yet!
John A. Walsh
All photos Copyright 2011 Carrie Lee Photography. All rights reserved.