Concert Review: Steve Katz / Patti Rothberg @ The Linda, 10/27/2023

To understate it, Steve Katz has led a most interesting life. You may know of him, as I did, as the guitarist first with The Blues Project and then going on to great commercial success with Blood, Sweat and Tears. In a delightfully low-key and intimate performance at The Linda Friday night, Katz proved that wasn’t close to the half of it.

Katz interspersed wry and witty anecdotes with beautifully performed acoustic songs, reflecting each story. Opener “Kettle of Fish,” was about his favorite Greenwich village hangout. Blues standards, Bessie Smith covers, murder ballads, Donovan songs, and more radiated out from his guitar, punctuating his words. A screen behind him showcased an amazing collection of photographs and ephemera, in particular, playbills and posters of a bygone era—listings of concert bills barely believable now.

Photo by Rudy Lu

Born in Brooklyn, he got his first break in Schenectady of all places, performing as a kid on the WRGB-TV show Teenage Barn in the late fifties. He attended Niskayuna High School for a year but then moved to New York City in 1960. Katz soon became immersed in the growing folk/blues scene of Greenwich Village, studying with such luminaries as Dave Van Ronk and The Reverend Gary Davis. Along with friend and fellow guitarist Stefan Grossman, Katz would occasionally act as tour manager for Davis, meeting and rooming with blues artists like Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, and Skip James. You could still hear the wonder in his voice, even after all these years, as he related stories of these legendary titans of the genre—people he actually got to know.

Katz soon got the performing bug himself, figuring that a jug band incorporated all the styles of music that he enjoyed. The Even Dozen Jug Band was a decent little combo, seeing as it included the talents of Maria Muldaur, Grossman, David Grisman, John Sebastian and Joshua Rifkin (a not-too-shabby collection of individuals you may have heard of). The self-effacing Katz just played washboard. But the lure of the electric guitar, sex and drugs, and rock and roll was just around the corner. His friend Danny Kalb asked him to join his band, The Blues Project. At first, Katz protested that he only played acoustic and was scared by the sound of feedback coming out of the amps. He soon adjusted, and when The Blues Project broke up, he and Al Kooper formed Blood Sweat and Tears, and the rest is platinum.

That’s as far on his journey that Katz took us Friday night, which was kind of a shame. I would have loved to have heard more anecdotes about his production work with Lou Reed (there was an amusing one about the crowd noise on “Rock & Roll Animal”), the great Celtic rock band Horslips (a favorite of mine), his time in American Flyer, and his experience running the incredible Green Linnet label, but I understand the time restraints. In any case, I could have listened to his songs and stories all night.

Opening for Katz was New York City singer-songwriter Patti Rothberg with a short acoustic set that drew heavily on her breakthrough 1996 debut album “Between the 1 and the 9.”

Steve Katz Setlist:

  • Kettle of Fish
  • Candyman
  • Crow Jane
  • Little Sadie
  • Richland Woman’s Blues
  • Take Your Fingers Off It
  • Young Woman’s Blues
  • Catch the Wind
  • September Fifth (Steve’s Song)
  • Morning Glory
  • Sometimes in Winter

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