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The Soft Boys
March 17, 2001
Austin Music Hall
Austin, TX




From Cynthia Peterson

Robyn Robyn Kimberley Robyn and Matthew Kimberley Robyn The whole band


From Matthew Seligman

See UnderwaterMoonlight.com

From Cynthia Peterson

Just wanted to check in and say I saw the Soft Boys last night in Austin, but this isn't meant to be an official report. I didn't write down the set list, and I don't have exhaustive notes. So hopefully someone else will provide the details you crave! All I can really tell you is, I was there, they were there, the room was packed, the songs sounded fantastic, and the crowd went wild! I fell asleep that night with Underwater Moonlight stuck in my head...and it was still there when I woke up 3 short hours later to leave for the airport. (Yawn)

One observation: While it was good to see so many people in attendance, the venue and stage were a little too large, I thought. The boys were all quite far apart from each other, so there wasn't a real strong "Soft Boys" vibe coming across. I think this will change on a smaller stage. Maybe it was just that they were all so tight-sounding and professional, and I was hoping for what I like to imagine as the ragged glory of old. Or maybe it was just that he was wearing the same lavender and green floral pants that we saw on an earlier tour...

From Stacy

Hey...I was there too. There's not much to report, since the 'boys only played for 45 minutes...but those 45 minutes were really good.

The venue was too large, and the fan base was spread out too broadly between Stephen Malkmus, Mogwai, and Mark Eitzel. The majority of the people near the front of the stage were there to see Mogwai. I overheard comments like, "You know who Robyn Hitchcock is? Y'know the guy who opened for the Flaming Lips? Well, this is his old band. I think they're from England." The Mogwai fanboys seemed to be getting into the show, at least they liked it better than Mark Eitzel, who opened.

I'm not the best at memorizing set lists, but here's an attempt:

You'll have to go Sideways
He's a Reptile
Human Music
Underwater Moonlight
Sudden Town
I Wanna Destroy You
Queen of Eyes
Insanely Jealous

The sound at the Music Hall has always been a bit tinny, but the band played well. It's always great fun to watch Kimberley, and Matthew seemed to be enjoying his new "rock star" image. I wish I could've seen Morris, but he was obscured by a giant amp from my perspective.

I'm going to check my schedule at work and see if there's any way for me to get some time off to see another show...maybe San Francisco. 45 minutes of the Soft Boys was not enough!

From Gene Hopstetter

My dream came true. I saw the Soft Boys perform live -- I've dreamt of it for 16 years, and it finally happened.

I heard their sound check, they did three songs:

1. Where Are The Prawns?
2. Tonight
3. Kingdom of Love

And it thrilled me to the bone. Instead of hearing the songs coming out of a car stereo, the band was only a short distance away. After playing the songs, they sang a few harmonies, to check the mics and PA, I guess, and they sounded wonderful.

The band walked out of the building to get into a car for dinner, and Robyn encountered a long line of traffic cones. "Nice cones!" he said to the facilities guy who was moving things around. "You have to align them properly. Don't you feel the force field they give off?"

And then I waited in line in the cold drizzle to get into the show. Mark Eitzel and his band opened. Mogwai and Stephen Malkmus followed the Soft Boys (and the Matador records people were handing out shwag and promo CDs by the bucketload).

Then the band came on. Here's a breakdown of the details:

1. Robyn: blue/white Telecaster; blue t-shirt, green flowered pants, and black boots. There was no blinking, but a lot of flipping his bangs out of his face. His hair is entirely gray, silver, and white, and shorter than the last time I saw him.

2. Morris: a red, three-piece kit, with two Zildjian cymbals, and a neat tiny tambourine on his hi-hat. He wore sunglasses for the whole set and seemed to be having a real good time.

3. Kimberly: the grinning gnome face action was in full force. He jumped around a lot, too. He is a Laugh Riot. He played a white Stratocaster.

4. Matthew: he played a black Fender Precision bass (iirc). He wore the only Soft Boys t-shirt I saw that night.

The only things for sale was Matador records stuff. Not a single Soft Boys t-shirt for sale anywhere. The one Matthew was wearing was white, and simply had the words Soft Boys in black in a sans-serif typeface. It sure woulda been nice to have been able to buy one.

The performance? Amazing. They only had time for a short set, so Robyn kept the banter to a minimum. The songs didn't have the piss-and-vinegar that they did back in 1980 (like, say, they did at the Maxwell's gig back then), but they still rocked. The songs were more "comfortable," I guess. The coolest thing was that they all played the songs as though they had lived with them for a very long time -- it didn't sound like they had rehearsed them for a month after not playing together for 20 years; Matthew in particular surprised me with the numbers of new fills and feels he found in the songs. he is one helluva bass player.

I met Greg Shell there, and he snuck in his MD recorder, so he can provide a full song list. Here it is, off the top of my head (I may have missed one or two or got one wrong):

1. Tonight
2. You'll Have To Go Sideways
3. Human Music
4. Old Pervert
5. Queen of Eyes
6. I Wanna Destroy You
7. Underwater Moonlight ("in the beginning was the door...")
8. Sudden City (?, a new one, I guess)
9. He's A Reptile
10. Where Are The Prawns?
11. Kingdom of Love
12. Insanely Jealous (Robyn played this even though he broke a string on his Telecaster, the third from the bottom)

Starfucking factor was nil. I did not see one notable Rock Star in the audience. But I left after the Soft Boys got off stage.

And it was filmed, too. There were at least three people on stage with (handheld digital, i believe) cameras, and there was a camera on a tripod at the sound desk.

From Greg Shell

First, SXSW was well organized, peaceful, smooth and well worth the trip. Lots and lots of good bands playing mostly for free, and I saw very little rowdiness until about 2:00am, when we were on our way out anyhow.

Even the wristbanders and cardholders had to stand in line for the 'big' shows. The key to being a walkupper is, get there about 1 hr before the doors opwn and you should get in. After the Soft Boys show ended at a about 11:00, we walked over to see Eric Johnson and they had stopped letting walk-ups in about three hours earlier, so the long line, that wasn't moving at midinite was full of wristbanders and badgeholders. There is no in, out, in for walkups so if you want to see the late show you are gonna have to wait.

The first evening show at the Austin Music Hall was Mark Eitzel, kinda disappointing though he does have talent but needs to refine his show. The bass/slide/lead player is was good, as well as the keyboard player who played bass when the other guy didn't. The electronic percussion guy played some kind of Korg, pedal looking device, like a keyboard. I didn't get a good look at it but there was only a single 1/4" line coming out the back. If anynone knows what that thing is, let us know.

The Soft Boys sounded good, except for just a little extra string buzzing here and there and I would say the show was excellent. Robyn played a shining, slightly grained blue Telecaster and Kimberly played a white Strat. Mathew had a black Fender Precision, and Morris played a Fibes(?) trap kit. I just hope the Portland show is nothing but new material. Ooh, sorry, that's the Portland show next year. They did play at least something unfamiliar plus the set was less than 50 minutes so they could have new stuff rolling out as they go along.

From Dave Witzany

Here's the set list I wrote down during the show. Someone else included Kingdom of Love in their list; I don't remember it, but I could have forgotten to write it down.


"In the old days, we were the Soft Boys. On a good night, we still are."

You Have to Go Sideways
He's a Reptile
Where are the Prawns?
I'm an Old Pervert

"This is a song I wrote for Tom Petty. But it was 1977, and he was very young." (Then a ramble about holding his daughter when she was a baby, and the sky opening up and asking him to kiss it, a la Jimi)

Queen of Eyes
Underwater Moonlight
Human Music

"This is a song written in Austin."

Sudden Town
I Wanna Destroy You
Insanely Jealous

There was one other bit from Robyn. I don't recall where he dropped it in, but it was about when the first door appeared, and no-one dared to walk through it, fearing the jagged teeth that might lurk on the other side. The high priests of the town decided that they must make sacrifices to it, so they began tossing things through it: "Fruits. Vegetables. LPs. Three disc sets."

Overall, I agree with [Michael Bertin's review in the Austin Chronicle]. It was great to see the music played after all these years, but it was much more laid back than I expected. (Not totally unexpected, with bandmembers coming up on 50.) It was clearly Robyn's band; Windsor and Seligman came on stage first, and almost looked like roadies out to finish setting things up for the group. Kimberley Rew spent most of the show off in the corner, playing rhythm guitar--he took one solo during Underwater Moonlight, and a second during the closer.

I'm looking forward to their Chicago show; like the reviewer, I'm hoping they'll be playing with more fire by then.

woj <woj@smoe.org>