To paraphrase one of his biggest hits, time may not be turning back for Al Stewart, but it does seem willing to stand still for that "king of historical rock" as he was introduced Saturday night to a near-capacity Capitol Theatre in Clearwater. At 66, he doesn't have the thick, flowing locks of his 1970s heyday, but Stewart's strong voice and energy were something to behold and appreciate for the enthusiastic audience in attendance.
The intimacy of the venue perfectly suited his warm, witty, avuncular persona. Stewart, dressed in his now-familiar long-sleeve button-down and slacks, struck a confident pose without betraying false modesty. Accompanied only by the fleet-of-finger Dave Nachmanoff, the folk-rock troubadour delivered an acoustic-guitar set of songs that were enhanced by Stewart's skill as a storyteller.
"None of these songs are what they seem to be about," Stewart breezily quipped after his second song, "Flying Sorcery." "You have to stay alert. There will be a test." That casual, playful attitude was a pleasing contrast against the intricacies of his inventively tuneful, literate songs.
Setting up "(A Child's View Of) The Eisenhower Years," Stewart discussed living in a thatched cottage in a dark forest in England and wanting to join the Beach Boys. He also shared his love for presidential history, relating an amusing story about the tight-lipped Calvin Coolidge, and offering "Warren Harding," with its tender refrain, "I just want someone to talk to."
Prior to Stewart's arrival, Nachmanoff had warmed up the crowd with a few of his own fine songs and elicited the desired laughter when he described himself as a "recovering academic." But his value to Stewart quickly became apparent as he played virtuoso lead guitar accompaniment, frequently earning rousing applause for his fretwork.
Nachmanoff's excellence was evident on Stewart's biggest hits, "Time Passages" and "Year of the Cat," the latter ending the show before a two-song encore. The first was a duet co-written with Nachmanoff called "Sheila Won't Be Coming Home," which found the receptive audience gladly taking direction and singing its chorus.
The evening also offered an amusing look at the conventions of rock music when Stewart mentioned his appreciation for The Band's "King Harvest," which flipped conventions with its loud verses and soft chorus. Stewart punctuated his point by offering a comical rendition of a typical 'ooh baby, baby' pop song.
Then, apropos to his setup, Stewart concluded the evening's performance on a quiet note with the heartrending "End of the Day." The story it told was free of historical context, a lyrically spare but incisive vignette, heartbreaking in its poignancy. This, at night's end, was a song that was exactly what it seemed to be about.
Tyler- I can't believe how talented of a writer you are. This article was beautifully…
Great interview! Give the interviewer a full time job! He's great!
The DJ was actually The Castle's very own DJ Tom Gold :)
Fabulous review Gabe! Too bad I missed it.