Pop Music Reviews : Forbert Returns Fresh

On the cover of Steve Forbert's 1978 debut album, the singer's jean jacket is well-worn, though Forbert himself looks quite fresh. On Tuesday at Bogart's, both jacket and performer looked brand-new--which is remarkable, because this Mississippi kid has been through the wringer, as he told in many of the set's songs.

This one-time "new Dylan" (No. 87 in an ongoing series) turned "whatever-became-of?" seems to have learned some valuable lessons. First among them is the need to let go of things ephemeral, like fame, and hold on to the things that last, like "Hope, Faith and Love" (the title of the opening song Tuesday) and rock 'n' roll.

What makes the lesson stick is the lack of bitterness and the frisky enthusiasm displayed Tuesday as Forbert and his four-piece band played off the buoyancy of the audience. Mixing songs from his new "Streets of This Town" LP with old favorites, Forbert seemed less a successor to Dylan than a precursor of Tracy Chapman and Melissa Etheridge et al., with his personal, emotional folk-rock.

And on obscure oldies like "Ubangi Stomp" and Gram Parsons' "Big Mouth" and on several rocked-up versions of his own songs, Forbert (who plays Club Lingerie tonight) threw in enough playfully dynamic Elvis-isms to support an argument that he would slot in nicely with the likes of John Mellencamp or even (dare we say it?) that other one-time "new Dylan," Bruce Springsteen.

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