A packed crowd attended this show from North Carolina born, Chicago based Robbie Fulks on this his first visit to Glasgow in around seven years and it’s a fair bet that a good percentage of them were at his last concert given the familiarity with his songs on evidence tonight. Taking time out from a UK tour with The Mekons to appear here while his companions headed up to Inverness prior to their show at Belladrum, Fulks elected not to have a night off citing his affection for promoters The Fallen Angels Club and recalling that he played their first ever Glasgow Americana festival all those years ago.
A tall guy, Fulks just about had headroom in this cellar bar but his main concern was the lack of air conditioning as the place was like an oven even before he came on. He didn’t complain mind you, instead it became part of his comic patter which throughout the show threatened to outshine his performance of his excellent songs. Hugely funny at times he gave us a great impression of Jonathon Richman as if he were a mixture of Spock and Napoleon Dynamite, imagined his pals, The Mekons, watching Tom Jones at Belladrum that night ( throwing in some Tom Jones’ hip shakes) while towards the end he freewheeled some improvised comic lyrics comparing Glasgow and Edinburgh and referencing Monty Python. If he weren’t such a great writer and performer he’d make a fine stand up comedian.
However we were here for the songs and Fulks rewarded us in spades. Opening with Georgia Hard his fine tenor voice had the audience spellbound while his guitar break was a fine reminder that he is a top notch picker. Rockbottom Population One followed before Fulks introduced a song from his latest album, Gone Away Backwards, explaining that the album was an opportunity to return to his roots with an acoustic bluegrass sound. Sometimes The Grass Is Always Greener certainly bore that out with his fine guitar work and lonesome voice sounding like a one man bluegrass band. Classic songs tumbled out of Fulks including I Push Right Over and, a highlight of the night and another song from Gone Away Backwards, I’ll Trade You Money For Wine where he placed a capo high on his guitar neck to produce a claw hammer effect and for a short time transported the bar to the Appalachians. This was shiveringly good.
Midway through Fulks asked for audience requests which were then thrown thick and fast at him and he obliged almost al. Cigarette State ( he congratulated the audience for laughing each time he repeated the line Alabama’s grand, the State not the band) featured another incredible guitar break which would give Richard Thompson a run for his money while Scrapple occasioned a great story on how he was offered a prime slot at a Scrapple convention before he enlightened the organisers on the lyrical content. The Buck starts Here was given a tremendous outing, again with an absurdly funny Owens story to go with it before closing requests with I Like The Bangle Girl. Let’s Kill Saturday Night ended the show before Fulks returned with his sublime doggerel and finely an upstanding She Took A Lot Of Pills And Died which had the crowd on their feet as he left the stage and walked around them.
Soaked to the skin almost Fulks finished and headed straight to the merch table where he gracefully spoke to just about everyone in the room as they filed by. He was still there when we left humming several of his songs and wondering how long before he comes back. One of the best shows of the year so far.