Editor’s note: Steve Poltz returns to the Crystal Bay Casino on Friday, Sept. 16, an intimate show in the Red Room. Advance tickets are $15. The following is a review of his last show at the venue, which happened just before the Covid hiatus.
Three days after his 60th birthday, “Folk Singer” Poltz on February 22, 2020, performed to familiar faces at the Crystal Bay Casino. A man placed a personalized wood engraving on the stage, inspiring an impromptu song. When Poltz learned the man brought his mother to the show, he made up a song about her, too.
Anything can trigger something in Poltz’s brain. It will lead to a story that leads to more stories. Somehow a soliloquy returns to where it started. Steve Poltz is a Bob Dylan-Robin Williams hybrid.
“Pancho was a bandit, boys;
His horse was fast as polished steel.
Wore his gun outside his pants;
For all the honest world to feel.“
Steve Poltz’s mind is like the gun from the Townes Van Zandt song “Pancho and Lefty.” He exposes it for all the honest world to feel. The free flow reveals outlandish experiences and why would you not believe them? Pure genius encourages eccentricity.
Obituaries in the New York Times are fascinating, he said, citing this month’s death of Charles Portis. Intrigued, Poltz read Protis’ novel “True Grit.” “You get lost in Westerns” and step away from the crazy news in the world today, he said.
You also get lost in the Steve Poltz experience. It’s therapeutic and invigorating. The more you attend, the longer you might live.
“Check Your Head” is titled for the time a 7-year-old Poltz gashed his skull in a bike crash. He sang it falsetto, looping his own Motown-styled harmonies.
He opened the show with a song he’d heard for the first time four days earlier, John Hartford’s “In Tall Buildings.” He ended the encore set with Dylan’s “Forever Young.”
Like a campfire side savant, Poltz had the people sing chorus all night.
Speaking often about life and mortality, Poltz quoted Kurt Vonnegut: “On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies: “God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
That’s what must be why Poltz does this. Out of kindness, I suppose.