Real Music Club, The Errigle Inn, Belfast
25th October 2016

Steve Forbert returned to Belfast under the auspices of The Real Music Club for an entertaining evening to a less than capacity, but loyal following in the Errigle Inn.

Armed with a single guitar, numerous harmonicas, a two by four piece of wood on the stage for percussion and a back catalogue of seventeen studio albums, he played for over an hour and a half, covering songs old and new.

A warning by our genial MC John McCart, that “The Artist” had requested no recording of any sort, and a continual dialogue with the engineer and over-fussiness on sound levels between songs meant a somewhat disjointed, and a slow start to the evening.

Beginning with ‘Been A Long Time’ and ‘The American In Me’, the 62-year-old Mississippian showed his distinctive raspy voice had lost little of it’s appeal over the years.

Drawing on his Grammy-nominated tribute album to Jimmie Rogers, he played two “old timey songs”. Aside from a sharp comment on his Dublin audience being a bit picky regarding Brexit, not all his between-song banter worked. This included asking a member of the audience to stop clapping as it was putting him off. Still, the crowd had not paid their money to hear a stand up, and were rewarded with a sharp series of songs including ‘It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way’, ‘Quiet Days – No Regrets’ and big favourite ‘Goin’ Down To Laurel’ which brought the biggest applause of the night thus far.

Warming to the task, requests were asked for and turned down, the singer jokingly adding to one member of the audience that “it wasn’t going to happen, I’m not even close to remembering that one.” But the ones that he did play were great; ‘Responsibility’, ‘Breakdown’, and ‘What Kinda Guy Am I’ continually changing harmonica between songs.

He played a commendable twenty-five songs in around an hour and a half. Quality songs too, with Forbert’s trademark wit and observation stamped all over them. The set ended with remarkably his only bonafide hit, the exuberant ‘Romeo’s Tune’, delivered with great gusto.

Doing away with the usual long pause to have the audience shouting his name and clamouring for more, he was quickly back on board with a lovely rendition of Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘In The Early Morning Rain’ and the bittersweet Jessica.

All I need to do is to find someone like you. All I need to change is the seven letters of your name.

Finishing with ‘You Cannot Win If You Do Not Play’ to great applause, he moved to the merchandise table, where he was very comfortable chatting to “the Tuesday night people”.

Having seen Forbert on a number of occasions, as a solo artist, I would dearly love to see him with a band and flesh out the sound.

Steve Forbert “Running on empty” – Not quite. There’s legs in the old Jack rabbit yet.