Friday, July 04, 2008

Robbie Fulks & Friends Stars and Stripes Extravagonzo with special guest Romantica; July 4, 2008; High Noon Saloon

Despite having the best backing band in the Midwest and perhaps beyond, Robbie Fulks has been gradually moving toward playing more solo shows and away from the big rock full band show, but I guess Independence Day called for some fireworks. I couldn’t have been happier when Gerald told me that “& friends” was really just the band. I see Gerald every so often with Frisbie, but it had been far too long since I had seen guitarist Grant Tye or bassist Mike Fredrickson.

Based on his New Year’s Eve shows, I should have known that more was in store than just another show. He opened with an original downer anthem titled something like “America, It’s All Over” that had promoter Tag Evers interrupting the show to ask him to keep it a little more positive. It wasn’t long after that tonight’s challenge was introduced. Robbie’s lovely wife Donna who joins him on several duets (like tonight’s “Cocktails” among others) was challenged to create an American flag on her trusty sewing machine before they finished the show. She had cheated a little bit, her stars and stripes were pre-cut, but it still seemed like a daunting task. As the show progressed, Robbie would check in from time to time to see how things were progressing.

“Not good,” she confessed early on, admitting that she didn’t think all the stars would fit, causing Robbie to allow a few states to leave the union. “Who can we get rid of?” he asked before tossing a handful of stars across the stage. She continued to sew furiously (with very poor light I should add) as Robbie and the band tore through all the old (and some newer) favorites. When it came time to display the flag prior to giving it away in a trivia contest, I was amused to see that it had been put together backwards, the blue square of stars in the wrong corner. I’m not sure which contestant actually finally won, but I do know they all aced inquiries like “which president freed the slaves?” and “who was the first president?” Kelda Roys (who is running for state assembly in my district) was one of the participants and had the dubious honor of having an impromptu song about her endeavor written on the spot. The show didn’t end until early on the fifth of July, but everyone was still feeling quite patriotic.

Romantica seemed a curious opener for Robbie’s high-powered shenanigans, but then again I like both bands so maybe it worked out just fine. Lead singer Ben Kyle was as handsome and charming as ever, but nothing in their set of lovely originals could have prepared me for their cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” A gorgeous song in its original form, ethereal covers have been turned in by both Rufus Wainwright and Jeff Buckley. In fact, Peter Mulvey, who does a pretty excellent cover himself, has claimed he will never record it because the latter “pretty much knocked it out of the park.” All of those versions have been moodily reverential, but Romantica chose to rock it out a little bit, and it proved a good choice. Kyle’s gorgeous voice was perfect suited for their stepped up version, and while it wouldn’t have expected it, it actually brought tears to my eyes. Damn. Play it again boys, please.

No comments: