The Lexington – 4th October
‘I haven’t felt very talkative lately’ Stephen Steinbrink murmurs to the audience whilst his bassist takes in-between song chat duties. It is a sentence that could serve as a banner for Anagrams, Steinbrink’s shyly striking latest album. The Phoenix born and bred songwriter is a master of introspective guitar music but his latest album focuses particularly on themes of self-doubt and anxiety. And in the same way that a flurry of anxious thoughts can render a person quiet, Steinbrink’s latest effort is the product of a grapple with themes and arrangements that took two years to finalise. There is no trace of struggle in Steinbrink’s live performances however and tonight at the Lexington is no exception, as his three-piece band glides through songs from his new album.
The opener tonight is the lead single from Anagrams, ‘Absent Mind’, a spritely but mournful tune that traces the urge to disguise oneself when confronted with a personal void ‘Absent mind brings a hand to your face and you start to lie’. It leads smoothly onto ‘Now You See Everything’, a single from Steinbrink’s album Arranged Waves, which serves almost as a response to the call of the opener ‘And the veil loosely covering my face it fell down to the ground, now you see everything’.
The set takes a more intimate turn when Steinbirnk plays a few songs solo. One of these is ‘Impossible Hand’, which displays Steinbrink’s ability to score thawing relations with ironic warmth ‘You pinned a faded picture of me up on your wall. I was so startled that my face was your decor. ‘Cause the love I have for you is making me so bored.’ Sometimes Steinbrink’s songs can appear to end too early, almost unresolved, but this gives greater gravitas to the longing his songs conjure up, reminding you that things often posses a greater weight when they are absent.
Despite the few words in between songs, Steinbrink expresses genuine gratitude to his London audience at the close of the set ‘It’s been an honour to play music in front of you tonight’, he concludes. Stephen Steinbrink is someone who seems most comfortable expressing himself through song writing rather than dialogue, which is perhaps why he is able to explore inner life with greater depth than those who command the stage with unabashed extroversion.