Robert Forster – King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow – Sunday 29th May 2016
There can’t be many worse things for a singer than travelling halfway round the world for a short tour only to lose his voice after just one date.
Yet that was exactly the nightmare scenario facing Robert Forster ahead of his first Glasgow show in 8 years last Sunday night.
From the opening lines of ‘Learn To Burn’ it was clear that all was not well with the Forster vocal chords, a fact he acknowledged after a handful of songs when admitting that “I’m sounding a lot like Joe Cocker. But we’ll get through this.”
And get through it he did even if he had to gargle whisky on a couple of occasions to help.
The show therefore might not have been quite what everyone was expecting, but the crowd was very much behind him, willing him on. Indeed early on during ‘Surfing Magazines ’ the crowd demonstrated that, if necessary, they would sing the choruses themselves.
The set drew on a mixture of Forster solo tracks and Go-Betweens favourites. At full strength the band was a 5 piece (including the singer) but players flitted on and off stage as appropriate.
Last year’s excellent ‘Songs To Play’ featured significantly and was well received but it was the older tunes that drew the best response even if it wasn’t necessarily the biggest hits that were the stand-outs.
Best of the lot was probably the first encore. With the band taking to the stage first and launching into a laid back intro, I joked that they were about to announce that the song was an extended post-rock jam they’d worked up in rehearsal. But, no, although Foster emerged initially standing beside the keyboard he finally took the stage for a whispered rendition of ‘Danger In The Past’. It was an absolute triumph with the querulous ‘Perth?’ halfway through an abiding memory.
As was a real ‘shivers-down-the-spine’ version of ‘Finding You’, Robert’s throaty delivery lending the tune an additional piquancy.
And, in the circumstances, there was nothing braver than taking on a solo acoustic number but ‘Darlinghurst Nights’ was exactly that with the fragility of the singing again adding an inestimable quality to the song.
Looking down the setlist only reminds me of further highpoints – a lovely ‘Clouds’ backed only by wife Karin, ‘A Poet Walks’, and the extended finale to ‘Draining The Pool For You’.
In the circumstances it seemed rather selfish to demand a second encore after ‘Danger In The Past’ but demand one we did and were rewarded by a wonderful version of ‘Spring Rain’ and, to conclude, an extended, playful take on ‘Too Much of One Thing’.
Recent history would suggest that it may be a while before we get the chance to see Forster in Scotland again but, despite Sunday’s difficulties, I doubt anyone felt short-changed by the show.
Rather after a gap of 8 years this show was every bit as special as we might have hoped for.
- Learn to Burn
- I’m So Happy for You
- Let Me Imagine You
- Surfing Magazines
- Head Full of Steam
- Born to a Family
- Draining the Pool for You
- Darlinghurst Nights (solo)
- Heart Out to Tender
- Finding You
- I Can Do
- I Love Myself (and I Always Have)
- A Poet Walks
- Here Comes a City
- Danger in the Past
- Spring Rain
- Too Much of One Thing
*I wasn’t taking notes but this setlist, based on the Dublin main set, looks about right.