Review by Greg Haymes
Photograph by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Steve Katz isn’t the first rock-era performer to offer an autobiographical concert. Musicians from Ray Davies to Dionne Warwick to Roger McGuinn, to name just a few, have all served up performances that were equal parts music and memoir. But while each of them were closely associated with a single band (or in Warwick’s case, a single songwriter), Katz’s career has taken him all over the map as a kind of musical Zelig – from jug bands to psychedelic blues to jazz-rock to country rock and beyond.
So his show at The Linda last month offered a considerably wide range of musical styles – or rather, it would have if he’d had additional musical support. But it was a solo show, so Katz shined brightest early on when he was playing his folkier stuff, including the back-to-back opening volley of the saucey jug band gem “Take Your Fingers Off It” (which he recorded with the Even Dozen Jug Band) and the sweet blues “Candy Man” (which, as he explained, he learned first-hand from two different musical masters, Dave Van Ronk and Reverend Gary Davis).
By the time he got to his Blues Project era (“Steve’s Song”), Katz’s stories had become more entertaining than the songs that they introduced (“Steve’s Song”). But most of the crowd – which included at least a dozen of his former Niskayuna High School classmates – were waiting for his tenure in Blood, Sweat & Tears, and they seemed quite content to hear him play the woefully dated “Megan’s Gypsy Eyes” and “Sometimes in Winter.”
Katz didn’t pursue a solo career until recently, and he has never been a prolific songwriter, so he peppered his concert with plenty of covers, digging into the songbags of Mississippi John Hurt (“Richland Woman Blues”), Donovan (“Catch the Wind”), Patrick Sky (“Love Will Endure”) and Tim Buckley (“Morning Glory”).
Although Katz’s sit-down performance was low-key and a bit stiff, it was a pleasant enough evening. He’s written his memoirs, slated for publication next year, and it seemed as though his concert at The Linda was something of a warm-up for when he’ll soon hit the book trail.
NOTE: Steve Katz is scheduled to step into the spotlight at the new Towne Crier Cafe in Beacon at 8:30pm on Friday, October 18, sharing the stage with the Christine Spero Group in a tribute in the music of Laura Nyro. Tickets are $20 in advance; $25 at the door.