The lights dimmed at The Muckenthaler Center’s Amphitheater.
A spotlight shined as the audience waited silently, muttering under their breath in the chill fall air. There was excitement beneath the moonlit, starry sky.
The artist dressed in a black trench coat with a crimson inner lining and matching fedora almost materialized from the darkness and into view.
“Thank you for coming, I’m Steve Noonan,” he said.
Noonan was born in August of 1946 in Omaha, Nebraska. During fifth grade, his parents decided to move to California for a change of scenery, which is how he ended up living in the city of Fullerton from 1956 to 1966.
The same city that would make him the successful musician he is today, before being signed and moving to New York in 1966. Eventually, Noonan returned home in 2007.
The American Folk singer and songwriter started his career in 1966 when he was discovered by producer Paul Rothchild from Elektra Records.
“I first heard Steve Noonan after listening to ‘Buy for Me the Rain’ back in 1967,” said Danny Ott, owner of Danny Ott Guitar Repair Shop in Garden Grove. “I was glad when he first came to my shop to have work done on his guitar.”
Noonan has performed, recorded and collaborated with legendary musicians like Tina Turner, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Jerry Garcia and John Sebastian.
The folk artist returned to music in 2007 after a 30-year hiatus. He had realized what he was working on at the time wasn’t what he wanted to do.
“I kind of woke up and said to myself, ’I shouldn’t be doing this shit. I should be making music,’” Noonan explained after sipping Hefeweizen from a silver-plated cup. “I had an epiphany and quit all the work I was doing and said, ‘I’m going back to the beginning again.’”
After a well rested 30 years, Noonan spent six more years experimenting with the folk genre by adding distorted melodic guitar riffs, synthesizers, mandolin and violin to his already unique acoustic sound.
There was a look of nostalgia in Noonan’s eyes during his performance Oct. 13 at The Muckenthaler. There was a spark of life once lived that was amplified from the light that hung over his head.
Noonan told the tales of his touring days, the evolutionary stages of his music and the messages he conveys for positive change in the world.
“If I were to compare the way I played then to now, it would be like night and day,” Noonan said. “As an artist, I can’t afford to be confined to this idea of thinking inside the box. Artists are meant to tell people how to think outside the box – to think bigger.”
The musician performed songs like “The Numbers Song” and “Another Good Man Down”, which showed the skills and wisdom he has gained throughout his musical career.
“Half the music I create is about subjects no one wants to talk about,” Noonan explained, “Those kinds of things cannot be overlooked. I have to talk about them.”
Noonan’s songs take the listener through a journey while talking about the injustices and mistreatment veterans suffer, men, women and children, the atrocities and destruction left behind from years of relentless war.
“I wouldn’t stop singing about the problem even if the problem disappeared, but that’s never going to happen.” he said, putting his head down solemnly.
Intelligence isn’t based on how much someone knows, but it’s what is done with that knowledge that shows intelligence. The kind of intelligence and understanding that Noonan gained throughout his time traveling where he learned that no matter how hard times can get, you have to continue trying to succeed.
“When you speak and sing from the heart and do it for the right reasons, like world problems, the feeling of success will be long lived.”