Concert Review: Al Stewart with The Empty Pockets @ The Egg, 03/26/2023
Al Stewart is a natural storyteller.
This much was evident at the wonderful show he played to a capacity audience at the Swyer Theatre at The Egg Sunday night.
Stewart spent almost as much time talking as he did singing, regaling the attentive crowd with anecdotes and stories relating to his literary songs. How literary? Well, at times, it was almost like attending a breezy and humorous lecture by a history professor who just happened to be holding an acoustic guitar.
Stewart revels in the language of song, lyrics, and of poetry, and the folk tradition of telling a story. His songs are about things – indeed, he was at pains to explain that he constantly searches for original topics to be covered and captured in his work. As an example, he introduced the song “Joe the Georgian” as being a fable about the many Bolsheviks Josef Stalin had murdered in his reign of terror, eagerly waiting for him to die and join them in hell, where they could then exact revenge by tormenting and torturing him for eternity. “Bye Bye Bye” it ain’t.
Other topics Stewart touched on were disco (he’s not a fan), the English folk rock movement (of which he was an important and successful part), Helen of Troy, the many aliases of Steven Demetre Georgiou (google him), Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Scott (and Shackleton) of the Antarctic, the French revolutions and more, all with a witty and droll delivery. He noted that he could talk about the Trojan war “for hours” and confessed to sometimes spending “days” on deciding on just one word of a lyric.
He was particularly amusing reminiscing about growing up in a small English village (although born in Scotland, Stewart grew up in Wimborne, Dorset), which may seem a bucolic upbringing to some, but was deathly boring to the young Al. A town with “nothing to do and a bus every 2 hours.” He took guitar lessons from a “young chap” who lived nearby, who turned out to be a fifteen-year-old Robert Fripp!
His backing band, The Empty Pockets, beautifully realized Stewart’s songs. The Chicago band had opened the evening with a short, punchy, and enjoyable set of their own. Their Americana-tinged rock was highlighted by a spirited version of The Fab’s “Oh! Darling”, showcasing the strong vocals of keyboard player Erika Brett. In the headlining set, Stewart invited Brett to sing lead on his song “Almost Lucy,” as it was written “from a female perspective,” which she did admirably. The rest of the band, Josh Solomon – guitar, keyboards, and vocals, Nate Bellon – bass; and Adam Belasco – drums, provided a deft and sympathetic reading of Stewart’s material, never overshadowing the main man. They were occasionally augmented by Elliot Scozzaro, who expertly played the key saxophone and flute parts of the repertoire.
And what a repertoire. Deep cuts and hit songs (yes, he played “Year of the Cat”), all with a common theme – originality.
Al Stewart is a natural storyteller. Of unusual and unique stories.
- Set List:
- Sirens of Titan
- Palace of Versailles
- Time Passages
- Broadway Hotel
- On the Border
- Midas Shadow
- Helen and Cassandra
- Joe the Georgian
- Almost Lucy
- One Stage Before
- Year of the Cat
Correction: Al Stewart’s encore was in fact Dylan’s “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”, not “Carol.”
Comments are closed.