Steve Conte, Live at The Boileroom, Guildford August 18th 2015
Having seen Steve Conte play with Michael Monroe back in New York, I jumped at the chance to see this intimate gig, the first stop on his UK tour. Since Conte was chosen to replace Johnny Thunders in the New York Dolls, I was excited to see the man who so generously filled these boots fronting his own three piece.
The set opened with Dark in the Spotlight, the first track from his latest self release, (Steve Conte NYC) a mid-tempo groover dripping in Thin Lizzy melodies. From there Conte, drummer Jeroen Polderman and bass player Jan Verdoorn gained momentum throughout the 16 song set. Conte is a rock and roll fundamentalist, right down to the zipped up leather jacket he refused to shed even under the heat of the stage lights.
Conte delivered each of his original songs with passion and robust authenticity. Open chords morphed into melodic solos, just teetering on the edge of indulgence. I would have loved more solos but Conte’s agenda was clearly to establish that he is much more than a rock ‘n’ roll guitar player whilst letting the songs tell the story. Conte has it all: star presence, hooks, chops and a truly magnificent rock haircut. Plus the acoustic segment showed just how well he could hold the crowd even without his trusty SG Jr.
Material from Conte’s newest release proved even stronger than old favourites such as 2009’s garage swamp mash-up Gypsy Cab and Romance on the Rocks from his former band Company of Wolves. One of many highlights was Steve’s cover of Happy, and although this one didn’t mention a room without a roof, the roof was still suitably raised. The set ended with a cover of Pills, provoking an exuberant singalong from the hardcore Dolls fans present and proving that although Steve Conte has forged his reputation as the quintessential sideman he now belongs up front and centrestage.