Thursday, July 16

A modest crowd of devoted fans, several of whom he knew by name, gathered to witness the genius and unshakable honesty of Steve Poltz's songwriting. The rigors of constant touring don't seem to have an adverse effect on him; he's visibly energized by the steady schedule of gigs with his band, the Cynics. Poltz, who co-wrote "You Were Meant for Me" in 1996, propelling folk songstress Jewel to untold amounts of fame, was clearly content to be in Tucson in front of a handful of devotees.

They opened with "Slovenia Breeze," a solemn alt-country tune. Guitarist Christopher Hoffee produced gorgeous slide effects on his 12-string, and there was an endearing semi-sloppiness about Poltz's vocals; it added to the feeling of familiarity with his songwriting themes. The drummer, Patrick Dennis, also took on the high end of the harmonies with Poltz. From there, it was a mix of frankness and sarcasm regarding family, single life, sexuality and relationships, all to the tune of equal parts country and rock 'n' roll. It was musical storytelling at its finest.

While recently in Australia, Poltz was given a challenge by another band's drummer to write a song containing the words "butter," "jacket" and the Australian city "Maroochydore." He ended up crafting a sweet, perverted number about dirty love and the effect it can have on the heart. It somehow involved Frank Zappa and Marlon Brando. You really had to be there.

The trio appeared to be close friends, and it made for some comical moments between both the band and the audience. At one point, Poltz dropped to his knees during an instrumental piece, his head directly in front of Hoffee's crotch. During their performance of the popular sing-along "Handjob on a Church Bus," Poltz found his way into the audience, and someone named John simulated a handjob on him while backing him on the chorus. The good news for fans is that the performance was recorded, and a copy was available on CD for purchase following the show.

I got a sense that Steve Poltz genuinely adores his fans as much as they adore him. There's no doubt he'll be back to the Old Pueblo—and I'm positive he will bring a smile to everyone's face yet again.