Humor included, Fulks gives fans their money's worth
TT The Bears Place, Cambridge, Mass., April 13, 2001 2001
By Joel Bernstein
CAMBRIDGE, MA - One reason Robbie Fulks has developed a fervent cult fanbase is that no matter how many times you've seen him you're always sure to see something different next time.
On this April night, Fulks treated a packed club to a little of everything. The opening number, the show tune "Bang Goes The Drum" (which Fulks learned from one of his favorite singers, jazz artist Blossom Dearie), got the night off to an odd start. Fulks punctuated the tune with a showbizzie monologue that included the lines "I hope you enjoy our new musical direction." But as soon as the song's closing words "and the show has begun" were sung, the band ripped into Fulks' "Roots Rock Weirdoes" - which he also punctuated with a monologue.
After that Fulks and his solid band (Grant Tye on guitar, Lorne Rall on bass and Gerald Dowd on drums) played a wide array of songs, aided by unusually clean acoustics for this club. Fulks played songs from all of his albums, deftly mixing rock and country numbers.
He added the country ballad "The Only Way To Die," which he wrote and produced for Dallas Wayne, and a rocking number from his next album "Couples In Trouble" (due in August).
After playing his classic country number "The Buck Starts Here," Fulks poked fun at contemporary country music, telling his audience (mostly young rock fans) that country used to be good. And what song did he use to prove that point? None other than Larry Gatlin's unctuously catchy "Broken Lady." Fulks presented the tune with the appropriate faux pomposity, attempting to get the audience to sing along with a song hardly any of them had ever heard before, then having more success in getting them to clap along (as he clapped with hands above his head).
He followed this with three genuinely old songs from his new "13 Hillbilly Giants" disc. Between songs, Fulks took verbal pokes at punk group Monster Magnet, Rhett Miller of Old 97's and even venerable Country Standard Time.
But the bulk of his jibes were directed at alt.-country icon, Ryan Adams. When a later call for requests produced some yells for an Adams song, Fulks obliged with a hilarious impromptu parody. He then admonished the crowd to not breathe a word of what they's heard. (OOPS!).
For his first encore, Fulks obliged a number of requests with his version of "Billie Jean" - more Chris Isaak than Michael Jackson - before ending the fun filled evening with his own "Rock Bottom Pop. 1." Fulks repertoire is so vast he can never satisfy everyone's request, but other than that no one could complain they didn't get their money's worth.