Last Friday I went to my first WXPN Free-at-Noon concert since, let me think, February. Wow. Since seeing Son Volt back then, either I've been too busy to go or the free act hasn't interested me that much. To 'XPN's credit, it's been more the former than the latter.
Anyway, last Friday it was folk troubadour Steve Forbert. Forbert was one of those guys, along with Springsteen and John Prine, tagged in the early 70's as being "the Next Dylan." Springsteen, of course, went on to be so successful that a few young singers have now been saddled with the "Next Springsteen" tag, and Prine has been doing quite alright since rejuvenating his career with a couple brilliant discs during the 90's. Forbert, however, doesn't get the attention these other guys get. He's one of those singers who are almost always described as "you know, that guy who sang that song..."
Well, way back when, Forbert was that guy who sang those songs "Goin' Down to Laurel" and "Romeo's Tune" (you'd know it if you heard it, goes like this - "Meet me in the middle of the day, let me hear you say everything's okay, bring me southern kisses from your room..."). He's had a couple other minor hits ("What Kinda Guy am I", "You Cannot Win If You Do Not Play"), but mostly you don't hear much of him anymore.
That's a shame, because the guy puts on a really good live show. You don't realize the intensity of his songs until you hear them live. On the radio they're all sweetness and folk, but the verses are usually broken up by heavier guitar and harmonica sound. He just kind of sneaks those parts in there. They're harder to miss when he's playing live since he puts on a pretty intense show, even for a free noontime crowd (which explains why all the pictures I took of him are a little shaky).
He and his band (who all look their age, while Forbert still looks about thirty) played a few of the old crowd-pleasers, but he also played a few songs from his new disc and they sounded pretty strong. The guy doesn't deviate much from the style that first got him noticed back in the 70's, but he doesn't sound dated, either.
This week the Free at Noon show is the Great Lake Swimmers, whose new album I talked up here a few weeks ago. The disc's quietness made it a little tough to get into at first, but since then I've listened to it quite a bit and it has really grown on me. I'm looking forward to seeing them live.