Fulks steps out on own
Linwood Grille, Boston, Nov. 14, 1999
By Joel Bernstein
BOSTON - Robbie Fulks is one of America's great live performers, and this night gave Boston its first opportunity to see him performing in a solo acoustic setting. Fulks flew in from Chicago just to headline this benefit for a local radio personality.
The solo performance allows attention to be focused on the thing that most makes Fulks special - his lyrics - and also on his most often overlooked talent, his outstanding guitar playing. (Fulks for many years taught guitar at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music).
It also provides ample fodder for Fulks' humorous asides, although he was somewhat less talkative than on some other occasions, perhaps because he knew he had only a relatively short time to play. Fulks performed for under an hour, a pittance for a man whose repertoire could allow him to play all night and all day, but it did not appear to be by his own choice.
He opened with "I Told Her Lies" from his second album, "South Mouth," a ditty in which he ad-libs humorous fibs in the song's finale (unlike some performers, Fulks' "ad-libs" change nightly.)
Although he took a couple of occasions to pitch his new CD, "The Very Best Of Robbie Fulks," he played only one song from that album. That number, the rousing "Roots Rocks Weirdoes" got perhaps the biggest response of the night, as its caustic lyrics were easier to understand than they are with a full band.
The bulk of the set was composed of songs from his first album "Country Love Songs." At one point, Fulks asked for requests for country oldies. He settled on Jimmie Rodgers' (by way of Ernest Tubb) "Women Make A Fool Out Of Me," modifying one verse especially for his current surroundings.
For "The Scrapple Song," he insisted the audience sing along with the chorus, even stopping at one point in faux prima donna style to demand that it sing louder. Forced to provide all the instrumentation himself, Fulks came up with a steady string of imaginative guitar breaks, including a very extended one on "Cigarette State." The setting did not eliminate Fulks' only flaw as a performer, the tendency to sometimes shout lines rather than sing them, but it did allow his crowd-pleasing showmanship to shine.
After one lively number, Fulks yelled "Who needs a fuckin' band?" Not him, that's for sure..