As I strolled into the venue, I ventured towards the stage to check out the set up. What the hell? Three amps, multiple guitars (including a 59 Gibson Les Paul Jr., a Gretsch 6120, and a few ES225 Gibson hollow bodies) bass drum, snare, and a hi-hat…this was supposed to be a one man show. Was I at the right scene? My consternation was soon quashed as the multi talented Steve Hill took to the stage. Armed with one of his six strings, Hill launched into ‘Ever Changing World’ and ‘Coming Back to You’ off his Juno nominated release simply titled “Solo Recordings; Volume One”. Hill continued with his version of Cream’s 1968 dig at corrupt government officials, ‘Politician’. Hill commented, “I’m glad that things have progressed forty-five years later” no doubt in reference to the Charbonneau inquiry.
With that start, Hill had everyone in attendance in the groove. The man does not hold back and his energy is contagious.
Both feet were a stompin’ between the bass drum, snare, and hi-hat and Hill made it seem effortless. Not to be outdone by his feet, the real talent is evidenced in his hands. Plectrum style playing is not Hill’s way. All strumming and leads, whether on acoustic or electric, are done finger style. It’s something Hill committed to about ten years ago. Says Hill, “I actually had less control and less output by then with the pick”. The man has mastered the art. His control in this style is the best I have ever witnessed. Rarely do you see a guitarist get a tone and such a reaction from a guitar using a non plectrum approach.
As heavy and as raunchy as Hill can get, he can also pull off some stunning mellower pieces. ‘Out of Phase’ was a display of how to play slide on an acoustic guitar. Very subtle but it came across incredibly well. ‘Got to be Strong’ had those dexterous fingers pulling off a brilliant solo. Back on the electric, there were also some stripped down to basic numbers such as (need names of songs). If you want to check out a song that starts out softly, and accelerates exponentially, check out the (semi) autobiographical ‘Ballad of Johnny Wabo’.
‘Solo Recordings; Volume One’, which won the International Blues Challenge Award for best self produced album, was the basis for most of the material performed at the gig but there were a few others tossed in there for good measure. ‘Gotta Be Strong’ off of 2007’s ‘Devil at my Heels’ is a good rocking tune. As if Hill wasn’t occupied enough he fastened a harmonica around his neck to play ‘Simple Things’ off his first release straightforwardly titled ‘Steve Hill’ back in 1997. Hill continued with a cover of the first hit for Berry Gordon’s Motown records, ‘Money; That’s What I Want’. Hill’s version is loosely based on John Lee Hooker’s adaptation of the song with some self described ‘boogie chillin’ rhythm but definitely given a Steve Hill raunchy feel.
As the music penetrates your consciousness, one can’t help but think of the guts it must have taken for Hill to decide on let alone a show like this, but a complete tour. Hill has been playing in or with a band behind him for the last fifteen years. All eyes are on the performer in this new set up. Yes, some musicians do solo shows with a guitar and they sing but Hill takes this to a whole new dimension by adding a rhythm while simultaneously playing and singing. It works! For the songs that need that extra ‘oomph’, Hill is able to provide it.
The reaction was great and a well deserved standing ovation was given at the end of the show. Hill came back to the stage and played a medley of old time rock songs including a number by Black Sabbath, Zep’s Whole Lotta’ Love, and Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile.
Don’t pass up the chance to see the Hit Man live. Screw drummers, they are overrated! This one man act covers all the bases and hits you straight between the eyes.