ROXBURY, NJ – In the final song on his second album, the last words you hear young Steve Forbert sing are in the form of a question: “It’s often said that life is strange. Oh yes, but compared to what?”
It’s been almost 40 years since Forbert made that inquiry in the song “January 23-30, 1978.” On Saturday night in Succasunna the veteran singer-songwriter might have some answers.
Now 62, Forbert, who leaped to fame at 25 years old with the 1979 hit “Romeo’s Tune,” will help the Roxbury Arts Alliance celebrate its 20th anniversary by performing in the Investor’s Bank Theater at Horseshoe Lake.
He still might find life strange, but one thing Forbert doesn’t consider weird is playing small venues like Roxbury’s, a place that can squeeze in 200 people at best. “That part of it is what you call ‘working for a living,’” Forbert said.
Nearly four decades on the road, on and off, have seen Forbert performing worldwide, to audiences both massive and tiny. He said he’s not above entertaining even a few folks, should the time and place make it rewarding.
“Out in the Midwest, I might do some house concerts,” Forbert said.
If it seems that Forbert has somehow almost always been around this part of the country, at least since he reached manhood, that’s about right. Forbert, who lives near Asbury Park, said he enjoys playing the tri-state area. People here seem to get him, he explained.
“This is a highly concentrated, well-educated part of the county,” Forbert said. “It’s just been an area that understood where I was coming from, even since the first album … I got started in Manhattan and now I live in New Jersey. I’m just more in tune with this part of the country.”
Forbert left his Mississippi home early and took a shot at finding success in New York City. He did so as the wave of punk rock began to swell in the late-70s. His folk-rock songs, complete with harmonica interludes, were more Bob Dylan than Patti Smith or Talking Heads. But Forbert’s quirky energy, witty lyrics and solid musicianship got him noticed even by the jaded audiences of Greenwich Village.
“Romeo’s Tune,” which rose to #11 on the Billboard Top 100, made him a star for a while. He never had another big hit record, but Forbert kept on writing and recording. His latest album, Flying At Night, was released last year.
He said he will be joined at Saturday’s show by Stroudsburg, Pa. musician Jesse Bardwell. “I took a liking to him,” Forbert said. “I’m 62 and he’s 29, the same age as my twins. He plays mandolin and guitar, just something to add to the show.”
Tickets for Saturday’s 8 p.m. performance are available online for $25 each. The theater is at 72 Eyland Ave.., Succasunna.