Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers Live: Hammersmith Apollo, London, 2011
Leek Road Film Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent was advertising a Steve Martin film season right in the middle of my two year Business Studies Higher National Diploma course that I was studying at Staffordshire Polytechnic (now University) between 1986 and 1988. Every evening over a two week period I could be heard crying with laughter at this zany funny man’s antics on screen. I was a massive fan and Martin’s great run of hit comedy films (particularly with director Carl Reiner) were all played at the Film Theatre: The Jerk (1979), Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982), The Man With Two Brains (1983) and All Of Me (1984). Over the three years I was at college, Martin’s triumphs on celluloid continued and myself and my other student friends would excitedly trudge to Hanley’s Odeon cinema to watch Three Amigos! (1986), Little Shop of Horrors (1987), Roxanne (1987), Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988). These films hold many happy memories of college life. I have kept an eye on Martin’s film career which although popular, for me didn’t have the same massive gravitas and laughs as they did when I was at college.
In 2011, I saw an advert for Steve Martin live at the Hammersmith Apollo in London where along with the band the Steep Canyon Rangers he would be playing an evening of blue-grass music. I was intrigued and snapped up a ticket. When the great man appeared on stage to a standing ovation he immediately told the crowd that they didn’t often see Jerry Seinfield with a bassoon and they may not know that Martin could play the banjo. He could and as part of the band gave a terrific performance of their album Rare Bird Alert! There was comedy in between the songs which was infectious and reminiscent. There was even a throwback to when Martin first performed a stand-up comedian to thousands of fans in America at the start of his career when for an encore we got Martin dressed in head towel Egyptian dancing to his classic song King Tut.
Indeed one of the first videos I ever played on my parent’s VHS recorder in the early eighties was Steve Martin Live! which featured a sell-out concert of stand-up comedy and classic routines like arrow through the head and fun balloon animals. The video also featured the award-winning short The Absent Minded Waiter. After all those years, I was delighted to have seen Martin perform on stage with his band. It was a nostalgic and very funny evening.