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The Soft Boys
March 30, 2001
Metro
Chicago, IL

Setlist

You'll Have To Go Sideways
Queen Of Eyes
He's A Reptile
Old Pervert
My Mind Is Connected To Your Dreams
The Bells Of Rhymney
Kingdom Of Love
I Wanna Destroy You
Evil Guy
Only The Stones Remain
Underwater Moonlight
Sudden Town
Insanely Jealous

First Encore:
Human Music
Astronomy Domine
Train 'round The Bend
Mr. Kennedy

Second Encore:
Rock'n'Roll Toilet
The Pulse Of My Heart
Face Of Death

Reviews

From Brian Nupp

Venus (my girlfriend) and I arrived to the Metro right after the opening act. I was frisked at the door and the dude felt my awesome stereo mic and said "what's this?" I said "an awesome stereo microphone, and it's cool to record tonight's show, it's cool with the band." He said "lets see it." And I said "Do you want me to take it back to my car?" He said "No, I just wanted to make sure it wasn't a gun!"

So we got in cool and all. The place was packed! We went upstairs to check out the sound. Pissed some people off cause it was so crowded. Sorry. I went down stairs to compare the sound. I thought down stairs about 20ft in front of the stage, center was much better sounding than the balcony center. More umph.

I felt very positive energy during this show. It was so packed! I had no idea the Soft Boys had such fans! This show was fantastic. Kim's e-bow guitar is much more audible on this mix on Sideways. Robyn really saw himself as an Old Pervert during the song, outlining with his hands what an Old Pervert looks like while he sang.

The song Me and Mr. Kennendy went on for nearly 8 minutes, with fantastic dueling guitars.

Astronmy Domine was the highlight I think.

From David Librik

The short review is: this was one of the most exciting shows I've seen in years. The band was full of energy, playing off each other, clearly delighted be stepping back to late adolescence and rocking out. Of course, I was also full of energy, going bananas because I finally got to hear a band whose music I'd loved and collected for years -- my fellow fegs and Matthew Seligman (who we stood in front of) can both attest to my muppetlike bouncing up next to the stage. If you like the Soft Boys you should make a real effort to travel to one of these shows, even if you have to drive five hours with a gimp leg!

Carissa snagged the "official" set list -- note that this is NOT the same as the true set list, since they were playing fast and loose. Hopefully Eddie or someone else can post the real list, including the encore songs. This is the list we nabbed, though:

Sideways
Q. of E's
Reptile
Bells of Rhymney
[I requested this one by writing it on one of Carissa's balloons and tossing it up on stage. I think this is the only one of our requests that they played. To me, this is the definitive version of the song, and I've used it to introduce people to Idris Davies' poetry.]
Pervert
Mind Is Connected
[a new song]
Kingdom Of Love
Destroy You
[dedicated to George W. Bush]
Evil Guy
[!!!! a Queen Elvis outtake !!!! what's the story?]
Leppo
[alas they did not play this one, but they did play The Face Of Death later on]
Moonlight
Sudden Town
[another new song]
Jealous

SET OFF IN A LITTLE BOX PROBABLY MEANING "ENCORE":

Human M.
Astro
[they played Astronomy Domine by Syd Barrett! My life is now complete!!]
Train
[this is Train Round The Bend by the Velvet Underground]
Kennedy
[Mr. Kennedy, a third new song]

Further encore songs included "Rock and Roll Toilet," with the new couplet: "I'd rather die that get an honest job / I'm gonna rock 'n' roll till the toilet clogs!" which are certainly words I intend to live by, The Face Of Death, and a new one called The Pulse Of My Heart.

So we got all of Underwater Moonlight except for Positive Vibrations (maybe they didn't have a sitar) and I Got The Hots (though we did request that one). It seems like the band is re-learning (or, in the case of Matthew Seligman, learning) the older stuff as the tour goes on.

Matthew, who I got to see best, really looked like he was enjoying being in a rock band again. He decorated the stage with our balloons. It was enlightening to me to see how simple his bass-lines were -- a lot of the stuff I had assumed was bass-guitar work was actually Robyn hitting the low strings (e.g. the intro to Insanely Jealous), but what he did play was rock-solid and invigorated the music -- like John Entwistle in The Who. Robyn started the show looking very tall and old, like one of those mighty rainforest trees, and as the show went on he got more and more menacing (Old Pervert worked better now than at age 30) until he was just wonderfully creepy -- perfect. Kimberly Rew was, of course, having a blast; the muppet analogy is right on. He looks like a happy Soft Boys fan playing air guitar (facial expressions, singing along to himself, hair shaking, big grins) except it's real guitar and it's got that old Soft Boys harsh counterpoint that the Egyptians missed. Morris I couldn't see: his head was behind a cymbal, but he sounded lick-for-lick accurate to me.

There were several new songs which you probably want to hear about. Eddie made a tape (I hope) so they may be going out over the networks soon. What's interesting to me is how they sounded like Robyn's current work -- Mr. Kennedy starts like Beautiful Queen. When the SB's reformed last, in 1994, Robyn wrote a "new Soft Boys song" called Zipper In Your Spine; it really did sound like '79 all over again both musically and lyrically. It was a real throwback that wasn't really done justice by the acoustic K Records solo single it was released on (try to get a copy of the SB's Mark Radcliffe show to hear Zipper in its full glory). But, on the other hand, that didn't go anywhere -- it wasn't Robyn's current style or direction. The new songs I heard tonight (Mind Is Connected, Sudden Town, Mr. Kennedy, Pulse Of My Heart) could easily be on the next Robyn Hitchcock CD, and I hope this means that they'll be there with Kimberly, Matthew, and Morris.

From Dolph Chaney

woj nudged me awake so I'd talk about the Chicago show more, and now that I've got the real set list from Eddie "Twose" (as Matthew spells it) to guide me, it'll be easier to call it.

Pre-show -- I arrived off the train from work a bit before 7. one alley past the Metro, in the Gingerman pub, I met Aaron Lowe & Mike Wells The New Guy. (Here's a public apology to Mike -- sorry if you felt a bit left out in the conversation. Aaron and I went to the University of Houston together and hadn't seen each other in person for years.) Aaron brought two Matts (one of them is one Matthew too many for you, on a health kick...) with him. Soon we noted the queue outside, and I got antsy to find Doc, the Davids Librik and Witzany (con Mrs.), Eddie & Carissa, for I was the Bearer O' Tix for most of that group, so I took leave -- but not before hearing of Aaron's Matthew-toaster experience!

In any even, I did spot the aforementioned gaggle in line and supplied them with tickets. Carissa brought a present -- a mermaid painting, a Nee-Toe scarf, and beautiful homemade soap! The zealous Metro staff almost confiscated it upon entry to the club (I suppose more recording devices smell of cinnamon these days?). (Well, one of them did tell me I looked like the Unabomber in my coat. Something tells me they didn't mean it as a compliment, though. Huh.)

Eventually we did all make it inside, including my Becca, who showed up from work just in time for John Wesley Harding & the Radical Gentlemen. I was completely stoked about this double-bill, especially since _The Confessions of St. Ace_ is really the first studio album in Wes's career to DELIVER on his songs -- no more trying to re-create certain late 80's Declan MacManus albums in a laboratory environment, and yet something more than the admittedly charming Wes solo-acoustic experience. This was the Wes I wanted to see live, and I got 'im -- he was having a great time, and they rocked it like a burly pig. Even if all the stories and song order were repeats from the previous shows, it was more than fun enough to see once (especially when Wes talked about being from Cambridge like the Soft Boys and Doc called him on it -- he's really from Hastings! It seemed to wake Wes up a bit. yay Doc!).

A geezer DJ from WXRT-FM was summarily booed as he pretended to have championed the Soft Boys in their heyday. Ha ha bloody ha. Damn radio.

Following this, as Verbow's _White Out_ played over the loudspeaker (I have worn out two copies of Verbow's _Chronicles_ but hadn't heard this one -- less aggro but pretty cool), the pre-Soft Boys anticipation started building. Requests via balloons were made -- "I Got the Hots," "The Book Of Love," "Sandra's Having Her Brain Out," and "You'll Have To Go Sideways." As he came out, Matthew was greeted with the balloons, and before they launched into the latter, he made sure to place its balloon nearest to Morris's kit.

Our clump's position: nearest to Matthew, with Morris's head totally obscured by his crash cymbal, 1st to 3rd layer from the barrier. Robyn and Kimberley were furthest away but the best lit of the group from our vantage (the better to giggle at you with, my dear Kimberley...)

3/30/01, Metro, Chicago

You'll Have To Go Sideways
I was a bit uneasy before the show about the prospect of this as an opener, thinking it wouldn't bring much energy to the proceedings. boy, am I dumb. the build was tremendous as Kimberley slowly brought in his E-bow work -- they sounded totally up to date, and the piece worked far better than it does on record.
Queen Of Eyes
it seemed a bit slow, but otherwise faboooo. I'd seen the Rock Armada do it, but since this provided my first in-person experience of Morris's high harmony, it hardly seemed old-hat.
He's A Reptile
reaction from the forty-somethings behind me was particularly strong to this, as they sang along impeccably like it was "Hey Jude" or something. yay! also fun on this was Kimberley's expression as he sang "he's a reptile" each time, smiling as if to say "haha yes, he sure is a reptile all right!" it's the little things, y'know...
Old Pervert
Robyn's flouncy old-pervert dance is *definitely* being added to my repertoire.
My Mind Is Connected To Your Dreams
any song prominently featuring the word "zzub" gets my vote. not my favorite of the new ones, but good enough.
The Bells Of Rhymney
I've never been crazy about the Byrds, and I won't pretend that this was particularly thrilling for me. a palate cleanser, as Wayne & Garth might put it...
Kingdom Of Love
...and the audience must have agreed, because the transition from polite reception to rapture at the opening riff of this was fittingly dramatic.
I Wanna Destroy You
again dedicated to George W. Bush, alluding that the US political climate has now come around to where it was when this song was released (the cusp of Reaganembolism) (my term for it, not RH's)
Evil Guy
I love _Queen Elvis_ and had no idea that this was an outtake from it until Mr. Librik pointed it out. I like this song Very So Much and hope that its age won't preclude it from a spot on the SB's album should it happen.
Only The Stones Remain
not *quite* as much gesticulation as on _Gotta Let This Hen Out!_, but twas maaaaarvely. (lyric watch -- "ovulated")
Underwater Moonlight
thought RH was going to break his low E's tuning key during the extended middle (the "beergut" of the song, as it were), but a rousing addition it was.
Sudden Town
pretty good new song, but the lyric doesn't feel finished.
Insanely Jealous
well done, but definitely a dissatisfying end to the first set -- dissatisfying as a song choice, not a performance.
Human Music
I was very happy about this, because I had really wanted to hear it sung with Robyn's mature voice rather than the developing, overly sneery delivery on A Can Of Bees. (I say this as a delirious Can Of Bees fan -- that's usually the SB's record I put on when I think of them.)
Astronomy Domine
wheeeeeeeeeeee! to add to my previous message on this, I would point out that Morris provided the excellent descending falsetto "ooooooooooooooooooooooo" between verses, sounding like Graham Chapman playing kazoo.
Train 'round The Bend
guitar geek content: Kimberley's right-hand attack is so strong that he plays this riff with alternating up and down strums but sounds like he's doing it all with down strokes.
Mr. Kennedy
THIS is my favorite of the new songs. not just because Sebadoh appears in the lyrics, either. I had decided it was my favorite *before* the extended guitar intertwinings began, but after? WOW! it was so much fun watching Kimberley pretend to be Robyn's delay pedal, then goading him phrase by phrase. Robyn's responses met the challenge. Later I told Doc: "y'know, I've been thinking about how much I want to go see Television in concert this year. and I think I just did."
Rock And/Or Roll Toilet
yay! the two best songs on _Invisible Hits_, my least favorite SB's record! were you reading my MIND, fellas??!?!?
The Pulse Of My Heart
I liked this new one, too, and its calmness was quite a fine setup for...
Face Of Death
RRRRZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!!!!! I love this as a closer (as on _Gotta_) because it is such a very early song, such a distillation of primordial RH without all the craft and wisdom that has grown into his work over the years. and I always think it's neat when they stop suddenly and go "MIRROR!!!"

Post-show, as DL reported, was mainly spent slemmiched* into the pantyhose-egg environs of the coatcheck/merch area. Eddie Tews bought me a shirt because he rocks! and because I retrieved him some baaaaaadges. then, off we went to Goose Island for gab and hooch (and sodey pop for us lightweights).

From Mike Wells

Among my first and last posted comments on the show, I would like to make sure the following is included: "YEEEHAAAWWWWWYEAYEAYEAYAHOOM***FUCKERSWHEEEEEEHOOOOODOGGIE" Or something like that. It rocked in a most excellent way.

I shared the central balcony area with the other geriatrics, secure in the knowledge that - aside from backstage - it is the best place in Metro to see + hear the show. The floor's a lot less sticky, the crowd less pushy, and the sound balance is usually extremely good (for that type of room). And even though I was only drinking water, this night had the added advantage that the upstairs cantina had a bartendress with the largest, um, obviously natural THINGIES I think I have ever seen. Ever.

There have been several excellent recaps of the show which need no additional updates, but some personal notes as follows:

The sound really got dialed in by "Reptile" (song 3). "Sideways" was flat and "QOE" sounded unbalanced. But from "Reptile" on it was mostly dead-nuts, though did anyone else note Robyn's guitar drop out a couple of times during the show? Common for a wireless, but it looked like he was plugged in all night.

Thought the song order was smokin' - heard just about everything I came to hear in that first hour. From the way Robyn intro'd the show after his remark about it being their 21st birthday party - "Chicago - Metro - Friday night" - it almost sounded like a recording tag. If so, I hope to God they put this one out. "KOL" and "Rhymney" were especially perfect; very glad for the latter as I had dropped an email request from the UM website about a week b4 the show that they play it in Chicago, and didn't know if it would make the set list.

It was a transcendent moment seeing 40-something wives, dressed in that "somewhat made-up but not too much look, plus blue jeans", with husbands obviously dragged along to a show they knew nothing about, happily bopping away to "Old Pervert." There was something really weird, strangely beautiful about it. That and the look Robyn had in his eyes when he removed his glasses, kissed the mic and opened his arms to the crowd after introducing the song - you could see the twinkle in his eyes from the balcony.

Also it seemed to be one of the better-behaved crowds I'd seen at the Metro in a while. There was the occasional hyper-intoxicated individual wandering through and trying to crowd for a view, but even these were mostly quiet and striving to stay upright. Heard very little distracted talking and saw no bad behavior up by us (it has to be a record); once the show started really chugging it was all business.


woj <woj@smoe.org>