Seasick Steve Live – Saturday April 7 & Sunday April 8 2012: Byron Bay Bluesfest
Building upon one of the fastest growing reputations in rock music at the moment, Seasick Steve returned to Bluesfest with a new album (his fifth in seven years and his fourth since being ‘discovered’ on the Jools Holland show in 2004), a new show and a new bass player. Joined onstage by the increasingly active John Paul Jones, these were always going to be shows to remember. The first concert was unfortunately plagued by technical issues, with sound not working for Seasick’s microphone originally and then, having fixed that, his amp! It is lucky then, that this happened during a Seasick Steve show, as his humilityand lack of self-grandeur would not allow him to leave his fans frustrated. So instead we were treated to an impromptu meet and greet as Seasick ventured into the crowd, bottle of red wine in hand, to keep his adoring public on side.
Despite this setback, Seasick Steve still managed to play his entire set (with an extra 15 minutes allocated by some very helpful and intelligent Bluesfest staff) which gave the crowd just what they wanted: A long set of dirty, rock-infused blues tunes coated in the gravelly drawl of Seasick Steve’s voice. His set was accentuated by a couple of key songs: The audience-participation was stepped up in Seasick Steve’s serenaded version of “Walking Man” where one lucky girl was able to bask in the dual attention of Seasick’s lyrical delivery and John Paul Jones’ technical mandolin playing. This was then eclipsed by the surprise guest appearance of Wolfmother onstage towards the end of the set both nights to play a song co-written by Andrew Stockdale and Seasick Steve during one of their encounters in Byron Bay. This was met with a very enthusiastic response from the crowd, but really served to showcase Seasick Steve’s voice which totally eclipsed Stockdale’s contribution.
Despite a minor setback on Saturday, this show actually stood out compared to Sunday’s: The combination of extra tales from Steve’s life and his jovial, relaxed mood worked to deliver a rollicking set filled with tremendous amounts of energy. It was also wonderful to see John Paul Jones on stage again and clearly more at home and relaxed here than he was last year with Them Crooked Vultures. With bass solos and a mandolin solo to spare, he demonstrated his, often-underestimated, virtuosity (in a much better way than his “Crooked Vultures” keyboard solos.
An undeniable crowd-favourite, Seasick Steve could not have done more to impress the Bluesfest crowd more and on the strength of this performance, it would not surprise me to see him returning to the festival in another two years. Make sure ifthis happens you are there to catch him, his broomstick-hubcap guitar and his amazing songs in all their glory.