The Dome must be the only Brighton venue that doesn’t have a mirrorball. Thankfully, this doesn’t detract from the wildly beautiful country-blues of Prinz Grizzley, aka Christopher Comper, and his three-piece band, His Beargaroos. They are slowly winning the audience over. There is barely anyone watching at first but it is probably the power behind the quartet that draw people in from the bar. Live, he is so much better than on record, a slide guitar sounding more desolate in the high ceiling above us. Comper’s voice is distinctive but comparable to Caleb Followill in range and intensity, howling at the moon from his trailer park or, at least, a remote farm somewhere in his native Austria. Going back to a time where music was a simpler beast, he pens love songs that are best listened to up a mountain wearing a cowboy hat. Prinz Grizzley and co are uncomplicated boys from “A little village in Europe” and, by the end of their set, I just want to hop in the back seat of their Americana-fuelled pick up and listen to them round the campfire every night. A big, big sound.
Seasick Steve (or Steven Wold, as he is known to his momma) also has an incredible talent for transporting his fans somewhere else, this time a tiny club the wrong side of the track in deepest Mississippi, not to mention the kindest eyes in showbiz and, of course, the best beard. Drummer, Crazy Dan, has an amazing beard as well. The guitarist, er, well, doesn’t. Perhaps someone can get him a stick-on one. Such trivialities don’t matter (much) anyway because, while the facial hair distracts us as a 67-year-old dude walks out into the lights, he is turning up the amps to 11. The sheer noise that three men make rattles the balcony. No, Steve ain’t slowing down.
Everyone’s favourite blues-rock grandpa, Mr Seasick, has an experience and confidence about him that are genuinely life-affirming – old-fashioned but not tasteless – that will leave anyone only hoping to be as cool at nearly 70. “I love you, Steve!” a woman cries. “What’s your number?” he says softly in his thick, deep Southern accent, marriage band glinting on his finger. He is certainly a character. Vest top showing off tattooed arms, he oozes friendly-but-don’t’-f*ck-with-me attitude, as he chats with the audience and seems genuinely humbled by the reaction they give him in return.
This would be something to do with the fact that there is no live performer like Seasick Steve. No, really, he is more rock and roll than men over half his age. One of his guitars is made out of a license plate someone gave him, for crying out loud. Another is made out of a washboard and he wrings their necks for all he is worth. He then tells the story about how he was given said license plate, and when asked what the hell is he was supposed to do with it, he recalls “And he said: ‘Make a guitar out of it, boy’”, then demonstrating that he also washes his pants on his washboard instrument, throwing them onto Crazy Dan’s head. A ripple of mirth goes through the room. The gentle humour creates a wonderful atmosphere and there is real warmth and affection for Steve, whether he be wrangling a steel guitar, peacefully singing ‘Sun on My Face’ or soaking up some serious solos courtesy of his smooth-faced guitarist in ‘Chewin’ on da Blues’.
In fact, his guitar work is amazing and what he has done in bringing blues-rock to a whole new generation of listeners is truly something to behold. Fans of every age are slapping their knees and whooping in delight as ‘Hate da Winter’ raises the temperature a little higher. When ‘Lay’ conveys a reflective and rhythmic story of trust, Wold’s naturally dynamic vocals are put in the spotlight. Then, “She wants to know what you drive, how’s your hair, can you cook?” he says before belting out the title track of his ninth studio album. Not surprisingly, a lot of what he performs tonight comes from his newest material, songs he wrote when they were hanging out in Florida, in a little white building apparently. Live, he brings a completely different and extremely charismatic perspective to his music that really has to be seen to be believed. While Steve’s style hasn’t changed much since he really exploded into view about ten years ago, his latest offering shows that he is a songwriter who proves that it doesn’t matter when a musician gets his big break, doesn’t matter what background they might have come from, it’s never too late to seize that dream and inspire others to do the same. As the crowd pleasing ‘I Started out with Nothing…’ begins, we sing-along: “And I still got most of it left”. Oh, you got something now, boy. Brighton never knew it needed waking up. Only the word legend will do.