LIVE: Robbie Fulks @ The Linda, 3/1/18
Review by Steven Stock
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
In the alternate universe that I sometimes prefer to live in, Robbie Fulks’ classic anthem “Let’s Kill Saturday Night” is played on the radio more often than “Born to Run,” more often even than “Stairway to Heaven” – and I still don’t get sick of it.
Of course, the problem with that universe is that when Fulks comes to town he plays the Times Union Center, and I need binoculars to see him, which, being old, I forget to bring, and alt-country/Americana aficionados drunk on over-priced PBRs holler requests for “Let’s Kill Saturday Night” after every damn song. Even after he finally plays it, they still holler…
All that considered, I was likely better off in the conventional universe on the first Thursday this March, when a modest but appreciative crowd almost filled The Linda. Fulks is in what he jovially called the “trough” between albums, 2016’s excellent Upland Stories in the rear-view mirror and a collaboration with country singer Linda Gail Lewis (Jerry Lee Lewis’ younger sister) still in the works. If the entire upcoming record is as good as the concert’s sneak preview of “I Just Lived a Country Song” suggests, the next one is gonna be great.
With nothing in particular to plug, Fulks and his killer bluegrass-inflected band – Todd Philips on acoustic double bass, Shad Cobb on fiddle and Vermont’s own Matt Flinner on mandolin – revisited some of the highlights of his catalog along with a couple of surprises.
They played the “Theme from ‘Chico and the Man’” pretty straight, but it still drew laughs, as did Fulks’ witty between-song patter. I think in my alternate universe, he’ll host a televised variety show, too. (If you’re too young to remember variety shows, sit with your grandparents while they’re watching Carol Burnett or Sonny & Cher.)
Fulks handed off most of the solos to his accomplished bandmates, seeming happiest watching Flinner tear through an impossibly fast solo on “Randy’s Romp” or listening to Cobb take center stage on his showcase “Banjo in the Holler.” I would’ve enjoyed hearing a bit more of Fulks’ own instrumental prowess on the acoustic guitar, but aside from that caveat this show was pretty much everything I could’ve asked for, ending with – can you guess it? – yes, a rousing version of “Let’s Kill Saturday Night” that had even the old balding folks tapping their feet, bobbing their heads and generally acting like fools who were only 50 again.
Troy’s own Zan Strumfeld and her band got the evening off to a great start. She’s got one of those voices that would sound appealing just reciting the phone book, but (naturally enough) sounded even better delivering her original songs of love and heartbreak. Check out her new record Book of Belonging on most major streaming services. They’re concise songs with a lasting impact – definitely Top 40 material in my alternate universe.
ROBBIE FULKS SET LIST
Long I Ride
Theme from “Chico and the Man”
Sweet as Sweet Comes
Banjo in the Holler
I Just Lived a Country Song
That’s Where I’m from
I’ll Trade You Money for Wine
Sometimes the Grass Is Really Greener
Arthur Koestler’s Eyes
Banks of the Marianne
I Push Right Over/Busy Not Crying
Tears Only Run One Way
Where There’s a Road
Theme from “Two Thousand Maniacs”
Let’s Kill Saturday Night