Review of his gig in Whelan's, Dublin, March 15th 2001
You probably haven't heard of him; most people couldn't put a name to his face don't mind a song. Yet this brilliantly captivating west coast singer songwriter has had a number one in the US - he co-wrote with Alaska's lass Jewel over the last few years and finally now is breaking out on his own ground, as shaky as it may prove to be. But before that, when he was just a twinkle in Miss Kilcher's eye in Java Joe's cafe in San Diego, an area blessed with a wonderfully warm community spirit. Steve Poltz played with his band The Rugburns, who toured the States coast to coast numerous times, building up a strong following. Originally from Halifax, Novoscotia, Poltz is now as San Diegan as they get, with that hilarious sense of wit and laid back attitude to life and music.
The gig in Whelan's was an intimate affair; not many people and a quiet air - but it felt like a singsong amongst friends. Moving through some of the deep and slow "sappy" love songs on to the more whimsical and light-hearted tunes from his album 'One Left Shoe', released on Mercury records in 1998, Poltz managed without effort to hush everyone to whispers and raise them to roars at the end of every encore (I think there were as many as four and I would have called for more!).
Poltz also showed an intuitive feel for the Irish sense of humour, mocking Americans, singing old Irish tunes and - with some side-splitting verses composed in transit from Heathrow to Dublin - paid homage to mad cows and foot & mouth disease. No false beauty or feigned frailty, just a man getting up there and doing his piece, just being himself. It was so enjoyable to watch someone who clearly enjoys entertaining people while being genuinely overwhelmed by the positive reaction. Even if you didn't recognise such mesmerising songs as 'Look to the East 'or the simple yet stunningly catchy tunes like 'Silver Lining', you could still join in the chorus, as he encouraged. His mad antics and eye rolling while screaming 'Monkeys coming out of my ass' both terrified me and brought me to tears laughing.
Towards the end he, for fools like me who sometimes remember having fun more than having been inspired, brought out the old favourite 'the Star Wars Song', a track which is so silly you've got to yell like Chewbacca! And then, with a bow it was over. For such a small crowd, they certainly raised the roof before - guitar set aside - he came down to meet people, ask for travel tips around Donegal and swap e mail addresses.
"All kinds of the man" my brother says smiling widely, and well, I'd have to agree!
One Left Shoe can be ordered through the websitewww.poltz.com