Steve Rodgers is Paul Rodgers’ son. Yes, that Paul Rodgers. Right, that’s that out of the way. Does this result in odious comparisons? Discuss.
For this intimate gig in one of the smaller Voodoo Rooms, Rodgers delivers a solo set comprised of songs from his album Head Up High plus some newer stuff, armed with a few guitars and a keyboard. In the course of an hour and a bit there’s just enough to get a sense of what he’s about, as both a singer and a songwriter.
There’s a whiff of Otis Redding to the melody of opener ‘Messed Up People’, and given that
Otis is one his old man’s avowed influences
it’s only natural to listen for similarities in their vocals – which there
are. In fact on material like this – and
it’s a good song - they’re very alike.
They have a similar timbre to their voices, and there’s not just a
soulfulness to Steve’s singing, he has the control to be able to bend and flex
a melody without going off key – melisma, as muso types sometimes call it.
|Steve Rodgers - chip off the vocal block|
A voice like that is one hell of an asset, and Rodgers the younger certainly puts it to good use. But one’s strengths can become weaknesses, if used to excess, and now and then he’s guilty of overdoing it. On the other hand his soulfulness rescues ‘I Will Grow’, with its plaintive piano lines, from sounding like – horror of horrors! – a Coldplay song.
That comparison is also indicative of the different sides to Rodgers’ songwriting. On the one hand ‘Sunshine’, the highlight of the set, some very Page-like folky/bluesy chording on acoustic guitar takes us firmly into rootsy rock territory. But there are also hints at more modern pop and soul influences scattered throughout some of the songs, such as the Paolo Nutini-like ‘Your Eyes’.
Still, he makes effective use of some picked electric guitar on the sensitive ‘So High’. And if the singalong ‘You lift my soul’ chorus of ‘Norah’ isn’t structured quite right then he makes up for it with a great vocal and acoustic picking. ‘Lost Kingdom’ has a pleasingly Joan Armatrading-ish quality to it, and the encore ‘Brighter Side Of Life’ has a verse that could have come straight out of his dad’s back pocket.
Fair play to Steve Rodgers, he certainly takes after his old man, but he doesn’t try to replicate him. Some of his material feels a bit lightweight, but then old gits like me will always want his delivery to be gutsier – and maybe it is with a band in tow. He’s out there though, being Steve Rodgers, and he makes good company for an evening.