Stewart and Bromberg Offer Epic and Farce
Folk bard John Stewart sharing a bill with blues jester David Bromberg is like a Charlton Heston epic followed by a Redd Foxx farce. But the pairing Thursday night at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano turned out to be complementary. Stewart, in his steadfast seriousness, and Bromberg, with his persistent jive, were both incomplete performers. But heard side by side, they provided a rounded evening in which Bromberg’s manic, wheezy voice served up the laugh lines after Stewart had sung his declamations in a voice that was strong, deep and ever-fervent.
Bromberg, accompanied by Dick Fegy on mandolin, guitar and fiddle, gave the half-full house some fun with his high-energy howling and acoustic picking, but Stewart’s controlled ardor made for the more memorable performance.
On his recent album, “Punch the Big Guy,” Stewart’s unrelenting grimness about inner and global troubles becomes overbearing. Where the album makes you want to shake the singer by the lapels and urge him to lighten up a little, the live show often found Stewart commanding attention with his urgency. Backed on electric bass by Dave Batti, Stewart used his forceful singing and varied, dramatic guitar work to make songs full of great winds and silent rivers and distant stars seem grand, for the most part, rather than overblown. A tender version of Stewart’s most popular composition, “Daydream Believer,” brought things closer to Earth.
Bromberg’s main approach was to bray and holler and put over a song through force of personality. That unchanging persona diminished the potential variety of a song list that included a wide range of folk- and blues-based styles.