Concert Review: Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers with Edie Brickell.

Those who thought Steve Martin left Hollywood to embark on a banjo tour are correct – sort of. The writer and comedian actually returned to the place where he started his career – on stage. Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, with special guest Edie Brickell, stopped by Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater for a two hour performance filled with an entertaining selection of blue grass music, southern Country featuring the extraordinary voice of Edie Brickell, and stand-up comedy from the wildest and craziest guy who, for the most part, is very tame in this stage of life.

The theme of the show was how a super famous celebrity joined forces with a Grammy winning bluegrass band to produce an amazing set with jokes intertwined between each song that related to how famous Steve Martin was and how the Steep Canyon Rangers were his back-up band.

Of course, those who have been following this act of four plus years know this is a ruse to entertain the audience who more than likely came to see Steve Martin perform, regardless if the show consisted of him playing banjo.

As soon as they came out on stage, cell phones and cameras lit up the venue snapping photos and taking videos. Martin set the tone by starting the show with, “I am Steve Martin, and these are the Steep Canyon Rangers, and we will be playing tonight for your iPhones.”

Other jokes in between songs were, “Sometimes I play great banjo, and other nights I play fine. I saw Eric Clapton play the other night, and I thought, ‘He’s not funny;’” and “As you can see, I play a lot of banjos (on the stage Martin played a total of five banjos, all of which were lined up on stage). I like to think of them as my children; to which one of them may not be mine.”

The special guest, Edie Brickell, who has been under the radar, yet still working, in the music business, was exactly what the show needed. Brickell managed the seriousness of the music, although some of her stories had humor and charm, and complemented Martin’s humor while the overall music spoke for itself in regard to the Steep Canyon Rangers.

Martin commented on Brickell joining the tour by saying, “Before Edie, the tour bus was filled with beer and poker games. I don’t know if anyone noticed,” he said to the band, “but the last couple days have been filled with making lots of beaded necklaces.”

The songs were filled with stories of relationships, life and struggle. Martin and the Rangers did a humorous, a cappella song called, “Atheists Have No Songs,” in which every other religion has songs or hymns, but Atheists have Sundays off. There were small skits involving the Rangers, one of which involved Martin telling the crowd, “When we first started playing together, we vowed to play until we stopped having fun.” Instantly, each band member put down his instrument and walked off the stage. But for the most part, the humor came via Martin between songs.

Martin and company, with Brickell filling in about half of the performance, squeezed in several new songs. It was obvious as Martin addressed by saying, “I know we’ve been playing a lot of new songs. Whenever I see a band and they say they’re going to play a new song, I think, ‘Please don’t.” I think it was Martin’s way of letting the audience know that there may be too many new songs but it’s their show and you can either like it or not. At that point, Martin says to go home, look in the mirror and think about how you can become a better audience member if you did not like their show.

Overall, the show was fantastic. There was a good mix of humor, great musicianship and wonderful songs. Although Martin joked a lot about being the celebrity, the real stage belonged to the Steep Canyon Rangers.

And even though the name, Steve Martin, carries the tour regarding ticket sales (this show was sold out), the Steep Canyon Rangers are the ones carrying Steve Martin through the songs. Don’t get me wrong, Steve Martin is a great banjo player; it’s just the Steep Canyon Rangers are remarkable in the sense they make Steve Martin look as if HE is the one that is happy to be there, instead of the other way around.


Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He is also the author of the novels, "Hello Lesbian!" and "Anonymous." Email Jason at
Share |