Steve Poltz at the Uncommon Ground

Photo by: Jae-Ha Kim

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
March 24, 1998

Right now, Steve Poltz is best known as the good-looking guy from Jewel’s video “You Were Meant for Me.”  But the amiable musician is so much more than that.

As much raconteur as singer, Poltz captivated the audience with his confessional songs at a concert Sunday night at the Uncommon Ground.

Sitting on a stool – but looking as if he’d be happier hopping around – Poltz accompanied himself on guitar and played homespun acoustic rock songs from his week-old solo album, “One Left Shoe.” He padded his two-hour set – which is brief by Poltz standards – covering cuts by TLC’s “Waterfalls,” Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” and Jewel’s “You Were Meant for Me.” Poltz, who still is in the Rugburns, included some of his group’s material as well.

Although his buddy Jewel may be more comely in a slip dress – and yes, there is a basis for the comparison, because Poltz has been known to throw on a frock when he performs with the Rugburns – he can sell a song better without resorting to vocal histrionics.

Poltz proved that with an inspired version of “You Were Meant for Me,” which he co-wrote with Ms. Thing.

Like Irish folk singer Luka Bloom, with whom he has toured in Europe, Poltz understands that the simple combination of pure vocals and acoustic guitar can make a powerful statement.

He also accepts that just as humor and pathos both are part of life, they also can coexist in a song.

During his encore, Poltz performed “98 Pounder” – an unrecorded song about his quest, and ultimate failure, to make his junior high basketball team. The lyrics are autobiographical, but they apply to anyone who has lived through the heartbreak of a child’s broken dream. A less skilled artist could have turned the number into a narcissistic sob fest. Poltz made it a vivid memory.

His current tour is not an easy one. Poltz has just three days off on a four-week tour. Yet I can’t recall seeing a musician who appeared happier to be performing for an audience.

Poltz will return to Chicago on April 5 for a show at Schubas.

It’s not to be missed.

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