Seasick Steve’s big break came in the UK, when he was featured on the iconic BBC music program(me) “Jools Holland’s Hootenanny” (cooler than it sounds) over ten years ago. The grizzled old guitarist attracts the hippest of fans and the most sought-after collaborators (though I’m starting to think Jack White will show up on anyone’s album that asks him nicely) and has even played the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.
But at the Seasick Steve show at Wembley Arena this week, he was actually booed by a small but significant portion of the crowd. What?
Will the Real Slim Stevey Please Stand Up?
The sea was angry that night, my friends – like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli – as the crowd felt betrayed by their beardy idol. Who was Seasick Steve really? A liar, that’s who. It had come to light that instead of a 76-year old self-taught guitarist with a rough past that included life on the streets, Steve grew up the secret brother of Anderson Cooper, one of the heirs to the Vanderbilt fortune, and was once married to Charlene Tilton of Dallas fame.
No, not really. Seems that the artist added a few years onto his age; has, like a lot of us, a vaguely disco past; and he doesn’t use his real fake name. Seasick Steve is really Steven Wold, or Steve Leach or Steven Roach, and… ahhh, who cares. He probably isn’t even queasy on boats either. It’s an image, people.
Seasick Steve rocks Wembley Arena
So how was the show? Very good, if stripped down is your thing. Basically, a man on stage alone growling and wailing and playing the blues on a three-stringed guitar. A drummer and a lovely clog dancer did stop by later to liven things up, but Steve’s fans like just that: Steve and old Diddley Bow (that would be his guitar). The two opened the show in a solemn state of mind, with a comment from the non-voting American about being puzzled that Trump and Clinton were the best his country had to offer. He then played Dion/Marvin Gaye’s “Abraham, Martin and John,” written in tumultuous 1968. The crowd was back on his side from that point.
He did mention the controversy about his persona, and like a good showman campaigning to win hearts back, he blamed media misrepresentation. He claimed he didn’t recognise himself in the press, but “believe the music”, the crowd was told. “If I write about sitting under a tree, drinking Thunderbird wine,” he affirmed, “that’s because I did it. And a song about roaming around jumping trains as a stupid teenager, and a song about being locked up – they’re because I did all those things.”
Finally, a leader we can trust.
Seasick Steve’s new album “Keepin’ the Horse Between Me and the Ground” came out last week and can be ordered here
A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.