“If you didn't enjoy the show tonight, you're wrong.”
That's how Steve Martin described his performance Sunday night with Edie Brickell and the Steep Canyon Rangers, and I couldn't agree more.
Martin, both a funny guy and banjo player, meant the line as a joke, but I don't know what you could find wrong with Martin's sold-out performance at the 2,000-capacity Holland Performing Arts Center.
The two-hour performance was billed as “an evening of music and comedy,” and Martin and his friends delivered on both promises.
“Thank you. Welcome. It has been a longtime dream of mine to play bluegrass in Omaha, Neb.,” Martin said upon taking the stage. “Tonight, I am one step closer to that goal.”
After the jokes, Martin and the five-member bluegrass group Steep Canyon Rangers jumped into the music, beginning with the mostly instrumental “Katie Mae.”
The band worked through several songs, some from his solo album and others from his record with the Steep Canyon Rangers.
Brickell took the stage after a few songs and the musicians - Martin, Brickell, the five-man band and an extra percussionist - worked through songs from Martin and Brickell's album, “Love Has Come For You.”
“It's really nice to be here,” Brickell said. “I've never been here before, and people are nice.”
“You haven't met all of them,” Martin quipped.
Probably more well-known for his stand-up and hosting gigs on “Saturday Night Live,” Martin is an accomplished banjo player even though he's only been doing it onstage for about four years.
On Sunday, Martin picked his banjos (he had five onstage) sometimes lightning-fast and other times with a more sparse and contemplative sound that sounded more like strumming than finger-picking. He also switched between a three-finger picking style and the clawhammer style, both of which have distinct sounds.
Martin, Brickell and the band's music was amazing, but I was happy to get some laughs out of Martin as well.
Martin's wisecracks usually started off with a serious sentiment before he derailed into something goofy, such as when he looked out over the concert halland said, “I really like what I'm doing now: Touring the country and playing bluegrass in these roadside honky tonks.”
He got a lot of laughs.
Most of the songs were serious bluegrass tunes - train songs, one murder ballad and several toe-tapping instrumentals, but some had a comedic bent. “Atheists Don't Have No Songs” was a crack about the influence of hymns and gospel in bluegrass, and the song contained the lines “They'll never sing a song of faith/In their songs, they always have a rule/Their he is always lowercase.”
Though Martin was quite literally in the spotlight during the whole performance, the Steep Canyon Rangers includes an impressive array of talent. Singer Woody Platt had a deep voice better than anyone on country radio and fiddler Nicky Sanders played sweet and slow melodies as well as jumpy and moving pieces. His featured performance on “Auden's Train,” where he wove classical pieces with bluegrass parts, was incredible.