Steve Poltz / Photo by Fally Afani

We know it’s Spring, the weather’s beautiful, and school’s out for half the town, but we promise you no one had a better time on Thursday night than Steve Poltz.

The lovable goofus arrived from Nashville to deliver one of the most entertaining sets we’ve seen in months at the Lawrence Arts Center. The songwriter with decades of tunes under his belt delivered a set that was almost more standup comedy than it was music. In addition to thrilling the crowd with wild tales from life in the music industry (hanging with Mojo Nixon, going on a drug-fueled adventure at Woodstock ’99 with Jewel, and landing in the possession of a glass eye), he also was quick on his feet, referencing banter from the crowd and conjuring up escapades so exciting you almost didn’t think they were true (he did bring the glass eye along for evidence). He’s highly animated and, as he puts it, hyperactive (he did spend quite a bit of time bolting around the stage while playing guitar during the parts where he wasn’t singing). Steve Poltz is, without a doubt, best served live.

It’s no surprise his live shows are so good. He plays 200+ shows a year, has energy for days, and hangs with the most rag-tag group of songwriters we can think of (he name drops them all, but none more than Andy Frasco). Though the performance was a hit, nothing made his night quite like meeting his Nashville neighbor Chuck Mead’s parents, who were in attendance at the show. This gave him a high he ran with for the rest of the night. Steve Poltz doesn’t just play you songs he wrote, he brings you along for every step of the process and every story behind it (he played three new songs he had written just in the last 24 hours). That’s the very definition of an entertainer (or as he calls it, a scammer).

Steve Poltz and Jenna and Martin / Photo by Fally Afani

The night began with a set from local bluegrass wife-and-husband duo Jenna and Martin, who joined Steve at the end of the show for an Iris DeMent and John Prine cover (below).



Fally Afani is an award-winning journalist with a career spanning more than 20 years in media. She has worked extensively in radio, television, newspapers, magazines, and more.

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