LIVE: Robert Forster – The Crescent, York, 14/03/2023

LIVE: Robert Forster – The Crescent, York, 14/03/2023

“Time is important
Timing is more important
Without it a story can end”

Here, on ‘Tender Years’, his penultimate song of the evening, Robert Forster is singing about the deep love he has for his life partner, Karin Bäumler, yet the concept of time(s) is something that runs right throughout this entire performance. It is a constant companion, a barometer, a fearless friend. Whether it be the passage of time – across the length and breadth of the Australian singer, songwriter, and guitarist’s musical career which now stretches back for almost half a century or his enduring marriage of more than three decades – the times of the trains that may or may not turn up to transport him and his son Louis on their current tour of this country, or the number of occasions over the past 25 years when he has met a girl called Tallelulah who has told him how much their parents loved his band (a reference to The Go-Betweens with whom he enjoyed such a fertile association and the title of their 1987 album), Forster tracks his life changes on this ever-evolving continuum.

These changes – in which the past and present are somehow congruent – are reflected across the entire spectrum of the 19 songs that Robert Forster plays here tonight. Accompanied by Louis Forster on first acoustic guitar and then bass, Forster Snr begins in the here and now with a quartet of songs from The Candle and a Flame, his eighth and most recent album which was released only last month; ‘Always’ – as featured on the Marc Riley session in Manchester the previous night – ‘It’s Only Poison’, ‘When I Was A Young Man’, and ‘She’s A Fighter’.

Recorded at home in the wake of Karin Bäumler’s diagnosis and subsequent treatment for ovarian cancer, The Candle and a Flame is a reflective, tender, and an ultimately life-affirming record and these four songs capture its indefatigable human spirit and resilience. In a recent interview, Robert Forster had no hesitation in saying that ‘She’s A Fighter’ contained the best six words he had ever written – “She’s a fighter, fighting for good.”

Robert Forster and Louis Forster

Considering the fluidity with which Robert Forster experiences both the past and the present, he moves effortlessly into his extensive back catalogue. ‘One Bird In The Sky’ from his 2019 album Inferno is followed immediately by his first Go-Betweens’ song of the night, ‘Spring Rain’. The latter can be found on the band’s 1986 album, Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express – a record he returns to later on in the set with ‘Head Full of Steam’ – and is immersed in that rich melodic vein that Forster and Grant McLennan seemed to capture at will. That said, Forster explains that earlier on today he and Louis had to “work on it for an hour….well, ok, maybe forty minutes” to improve their reading of the song.

From that point until a triumphant ‘Surfing Magazines’ – the last of a magnificent four-song encore – Robert Forster shifts effortlessly between Go-Betweens’ material – of which ‘Darlinghurst Nights’ is but one particular highlight; his earlier albums – the atmospheric optimism of ‘Inferno (Brisbane In Summer)’ is infectious; and The Candle and a Flame, all affirming his consistently sharp, often wry lyrical insights and continuing ear for a good tune. Time may wait for no-one but through the perpetuity of his music Robert Forster seems to have somehow held it in his grasp.  

Photos: Simon Godley

More photos from Robert Forster at The Crescent in York are HERE

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