Steve Forbert wants to be back on the road. He wants to see his fans and share in the joy of his music. It’s been hard for the 66-year-old singer/songwriter to be cooped up at home under COVID restrictions. Forbert tried to put on a few live streaming performances from his home in New Jersey, but that was very much a temporary arrangement.
“It wasn’t something I would want to continue in and of itself, at all,” Forbert said. “We did it because it was a way to play, and I have a four piece group with me here in New Jersey, so we try to keep that together. Although I’ll be coming your way as a duo.”
Forbert will finally return to Ann Arbor with a performance at The Ark on Monday, October 25 at 8pm. He’ll perform with George Naha, who has played on lead guitar with Forbert for the past three years. For Forbert, playing at the Ark is always a gig he looks forward to, given its extensive musical legacy.
“Ann Arbor has quite a folk and rock and roll history. So I’m aware of that and I always … look forward to Ann Arbor, because Ann Arbor is on the map musically,” he said.
Forbert has been a part of the American musical landscape for over four decades now. He loved music ever since he was a kid, growing up in the 60’s as a child of the folk and rock revolutions of the era.
“Of course, everybody was charged up by the Beatles, everyone was interested in that. But when the Byrds came out with ‘Mr. Tambourine Man,’ that just cracked it open for me, and I just felt that I had to become a part of it,” he said.
Forbert first made his mark on the music world in the late 1970s, with his song “Romeo’s Tune” hitting big on the Billboard charts and his first four albums charting on the Billboard 200, as well. For his modern performances, Forbert and Naha have worked to assemble a selection of songs from across his long musical career.
“We have quite a number of tunes in our repertoire now, I don’t know, 60 or so. So it’s a fun show, because there’s plenty of stuff we can pull from,” he said.
An era’s ending
The musical era that Forbert and his style represents is all but gone now. The folk singer/songwriters that inspired him and led to his own musical career have long been sidelined in favor of highly polished pop performers.
“I would say that I caught the tail end of the singer/songwriter phase. After getting inspired by ‘Mr. Tambourine Man,’ it wasn’t long until you were hearing records by people such as James Taylor, ‘Sweet Baby James,’ which was monumental. So I took all of that in. I took in Neil Young’s stylings, and he had a foot in folk music, for sure. Gordon Lightfoot was still having hits when I had a hit with ‘Romeo’s Tune,’” he said.
“But it was getting near the end. There [were] still some things to come, from Tracy Chapman and Suzanne Vega, there was still some gas left in the tank. But it’s long gone now.”
Not totally gone, perhaps. Forbert is still here. His audience is still here. And Forbert hopes attendees at The Ark find an evening of shared music a reassuring experience.
“It’s a little bit of a reunion, if you will. Because generally speaking, we go back a few decades, I do songs and things that touch all the way back. So people say, ‘Well, you know, I saw you when I was in this, that or the other.’ That’s just the way it is. That’s my main core audience.”
$25. 8pm. The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor. 734-761-1818. theark.org.