ACTION hero Steven Seagal will be taking to the stage in Southampton tonight – days after being at the centre of an international storm over his friendship with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The Hollywood star will be revealing a more soulful and sensitive side at the city’s The Brook venue when he performs with his blues band.
But his visit follows an outcry in Estonia over his relationship with Putin amid allegations over the Russian leader’s role in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in neighbouring Ukraine.
It led to a blues festival in the Baltic state dropping the actor from the bill.
Mr Seagal has been quoted as an outspoken supporter of Putin and has been repeatedly seen in his company since he was drafted in to help launch a national fitness programme in Russia.
He has also been reported defending Putin’s annexation of Crimea.
Mr Seagal last night offered no comment on the cancelled tour date, Putin, or the events in Ukraine.
When interviewed by the Daily Echo ahead of his gig in Southampton, the actor preferred to talk about his dual life as a blues musician.
Mr Seagal – famed for action-packed performances in the blockbuster Under Siege films – admits liking nothing better than sensitively strumming the blues.
The 62-year-old said: “I just like sitting with my guitar. I now play whenever I can. I am more of a blues player than anything because it’s all I know.”
Mr Seagal recalls learning the guitar while growing up in a Detroit neighbourhood in the 1950s, soaking up the sounds of legendary bluesmen such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.
He said: “I grew up around blues legends. I knew most of them. I would sit down with them and pay attention to the way they were playing and try to learn from them.
“There are big differences between the movie stars and blues legends. Movie stars think they are very precious. It’s very hard to meet them and you have to go through 5,000 people.
“But blues people are very simple people and very humble and they tell you stuff. I feel much more at home with musicians.”
When asked whether he would swap a career in movies for one in music, Mr Seagal said he liked both.
He said: “They are two different arts and I enjoy them both. I have no regrets and love making movies.”
Mr Seagal has been at The Brook once before. Back in 2007 he played before a sell-out audience, with the Daily Echo reporting grown men screaming and shouting, frantically taking photographs of him on their mobile phones.