No matter how much Steve Forbert denies any imitation, he inevitably reminds audiences of Bob Dylan. Last fall at the Cellar Door, he reminded one of the 1962 Dylan with his accoustic guitar, harmonica holder, short curls and cowboy boots. Last night at the Bayou, Forbert reminded one of the 1964 Dylan with his Fender guitar, shoulder-length curls and backing rock'n'roll quintet.
Forbert's quintet featured similar arrangements and the same lineup, though not quite the same virtuosity as the Band (which once backed Dylan). Forbert attacked songs with a torrent of similes and a flourish of harmonica.
Forbert did play four haunting solo acoustic songs (including one by his hometown inspiration, Jimmie Rodgers). But the highlights were the electric versions of "Tonight I Feel So Far Away from Home" and "Goodbye to Little Jo." They proved Forbert has moved gracefully from folk to rock.
But Forbert is right; he's not another Dylan. His lyrics don't grab for as big a vision; his images don't snap with the same crispness; his voice doesn't bristle with the same challenge. On the other hand, he's a warmer, more generous songwriter and performer. Last night his new songs like "I Am In Love With You" and "Romeo's Tune" glowed with a poetic vulnerability. Folbert has proved a fresh enough voice to survive the inescapable Dylan comparisons.