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Music Notes: Seasick Steve proves age don't wither

PUBLISHED: 18:20 29 May 2011

Seasick Steve

Seasick Steve

Archant

Four minutes a couple of weeks ago. That's what it has been all about for me. More precisely, a barnstorming performance from Seasick Steve on Jools Holland's Later... show.

I’ve not been a big fan of Seasick Steve’s grumbling blues so far. He’d seemed a bit of a sideshow. Entertaining, but in a novelty kind of way.

But Tuesday night has changed all that. I’m keen to see what new tricks I can learn from his old dog.

But, anyway, back to that Tuesday night....

Our bearded hero sat on his stool, playing a guitar that looked like it had been recycled from a scrapyard and stomping and wriggling in his seat like the said instrument had come to life and was attempting to throttle him.

The 70-year-old, who briefly called Norfolk home a couple of years ago while he was recording at Leeders Farm, tore up and down the fretboard using his trademark slide technique and grizzled his way through a blues standard call Don’t Know Why She Love Me But She Do.

The only time he stood up was to wrestle the number towards a crashing climax and to shake hands with John Paul Jones, the Led Zeppelin legend, who had dropped some masterful bass under the ragged rhythms.

His drummer, who Google tells me is called Dan Magnussen, was quite something too, a flurry of long arms and grey locks, removing and smashing his cymbal for the final crash.

I’m still smiling thinking about it now. That’s especially compared to a sleepwalk of a performance from The Strokes, who were on the same show. The New Yorkers are undeniably cool, but that laid back hipness has almost slackened to a standstill, while their grooves sound like they’ve got stuck under an upturned jamjar.

I’ve been underwhelmed way too much recently, especially on a show as overwhelming as Later.

The previous week the Arctic Monkeys had seemed to be trying to shake off the tag of Britain’s most exciting band once and for all.

Where was all the rapid riffing and razor-sharp lyrics of all? Now it’s all guitar distortion and tiresome lyrics such “don’t sit down because I’ve moved your chair”.

For a band who used to be so direct and urgent, the moment when a caption appears on screen announcing a new song as The Hellcat Splangled Shalalala, well, I don’t know.

I really like the girls-with-guitars group Warpaint too, but their dark and moody melodies on Later sounded like something out of sixth form compared to Seasick Steve’s mastery.

He simply blew them all away this week, this month, without even standing up. I wouldn’t write those youngsters off just yet though. If the Seasick one stands for anything, it that as you can get better as you get older.

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