San Francisco Bathhouse
October 1 | Reviewed by Brannavan Gnanalingam

ROBERT FISHER has a voice like a guilty conscience. Haunting, burrowing, his timbre resonates as if it was coming from underground. He’s also a bit of anti-rock star, shuffling on-stage, muttering dead-pan jokes, bathed in crimson-light as if he was in a Twin Peaks dream sequence. But his booming voice was remarkable, when he truly cut loose in the middle of his performance, it was quite something.

The night was opened by the Wrongdoings, a retro-fuelled rock n roll band. Lead singer Reta Le Quesne boasts an impressive voice, and the rhythm section was much tighter than when I’d seen them previously. The lights and well set-up tables gave them the impression of playing at a school ball (though no-one could dance in front), and while their music wasn’t earth-shatteringly innovative, they played their enjoyable set well. I should also give props to the sound mixer, who did an impeccable job from where I was sitting throughout the night.

Foster seemed genuinely surprised with the warm applause he received upon entry, wondering if people would clap when he enters the living room. The crowd were watchful, respectful even, and with the exception of a discordant glass rhythm section behind the bar, the audience was hushed (rare for a singer-songwriter performance in the Capital, which was great). Foster introduced most of his songs with back-stories and anecdotes – his grandfather’s possible quest for venereal disease, God and the Devil fighting for the soul of a gym teacher in Seattle, girls who fall in wells. It would have been fascinating to hear his songs with a big band, though obviously other commitments and cost put paid to that. His guitar playing was potent – simple, minimalist, but haunting. He seemed confused when asked to play an encore too, responding by playing “the saddest song in the world”. It was a lovely performance, a soothing kind of melancholy, and a showcase of an incredible voice that was tuned to the sparseness of the desert.

See also:
» Robert Fisher and the Willard Grant Conspiracy