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The Soft Boys
April 7, 2001
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA

Setlist

Kingdom of Love
Queen of Eyes
Tonight
Old Pervert
My Mind is Connected To Your Dreams
Airscape
Underwater Moonlight
I Wanna Destroy You
Human Music
Leppo and the Jooves
Only The Stones Remain
Sudden Town
Insanely Jealous

1st Encore w/Thomas Dolby
You'll Have to Go Sideways
Evil Guy
Astronomy Domine

2nd Encore
Rock 'n' Roll Toilet
Sleeping With Your Devil Mask
The Bells of Rhymney
Mr. Kennedy

3rd Encore
Train 'Round The Bend
Face of Death
Give It To The Soft Boys (Morris, Matthew, and Robyn with 3 of the 4 YFF)

Reviews

From Nick Winkworth

The show? Well, you've heard it all by now - awesome! Despite Eddie's opinion that it was the "worst" of the west coast shows so far, I was completely satisfied. (and Eddie, don't worry - we are on the same wavelength: if asked my opinion, I give it, too. :) ).

This is Robyn at his best IMHO, and while I certainly enjoy his solo work, I think being in a band both constrains his weaknesses (like timing...) and brings out the best in his playing and singing. Also, I have always held to the heretical belief that the Soft Boys is really a Pop band - OK, a slightly warped one - but it's the combination of Robyn and Kim that basically does it. So it was great to see them together again, and so obviously enjoying the experience.

I don't know how many others on the list remember seeing them back in the 70's, but Robyn's oft quoted analysis of "more comfortable, less spikey" rang absolutely true with me. They were playing as well - better even - than I remember, but were somehow different for all that polish. You must remember they first appeared in the middle of a burgeoning punk scene, and supported - and were supported by - some "real" punk bands of the time (The kind who would be sent from stage after a couple of numbers by a torrent of beer - and, unlike Gnat's erstwhile buddies, these folks didn't bother removing the liquid from it's containing bottles and cans!).

So, how could punk audiences be persuaded to put up with psychedelia, three-part harmonies and more chords than you could shake a Fender Telecaster at? The point was that they shared the same energy and attitude - just listen to Wading Through A Ventilator - I don't think they could get away with that today.

Today's Soft Boys are more thoughtful, better musicians, more relaxed and less selfconcious - a winning combination in many ways. Different, though from the SB's of old - but hardly surprising, I suppose.

I hope they do carry on and record together. Unlike some, I really liked the new songs - and Robyn is certainly not running out of ideas as a songwriter. I like the idea of a casual arrangement where solo careers continue and SBs events just happen every now and again as the mood takes them. Better than being driven by record companies or financial motives, anyway.

Other notes:

Guitar geek corner:

When Kimberley broke a string, that was a Squire Venus he was handed. Last made years ago and quite hard to find now (and on my want list, hint, hint) these were Squire's last attempt to take the brand upmarket and are far from the cheapo stuff Squire is usually associated with. Cool to see Kim has one as his backup. It was supposedly designed by Courtney Love, BTW, and bears an uncanny resemblance to my very own Vaccaro X-Ray.

Other than that it was an all Fender line up (come on Fender, how about a lucrative endorsement deal?) I don't remember Kimberley playing a Strat before (but then these days I don't remember much of ...err).

From Drew Simchik

See his website (scroll down to the 8 April entry on that page).

From Russ Reynolds

WOO-fucking-HOO!

Expectations met and exceeded at the SF SHow! Must've been some sort of harmonic convergence because everything just sort of fell into place. Driving in to SF we experienced NO BACK-UP AT THE TOLL PLAZA on the Bay Bridge for the first time since the '89 earthquake. Then, when we made that left turn from Geary onto Fillmore the first thing we saw was a PARKING SPACE. Rest assured I went on and on about THAT in Costanza-like fashion all through dinner. It gets better. We entered the Fillmore about 8:30 and the first people we see are Tom and Coleen. Anita and I sat down with them and enjoyed an entire Young Fresh Fellows concert (Robyn wandered on stage and introduced them as "THE rock 'n' roll band in the world") in a seated position without being chased from the area by the nasty seat patrol ladies. Kimberley joins 'em for a song off his Tunnel Into Summer CD. Original Flamin' Groovie Roy Loney joins 'em for what I think was an early FG tune. Then Tom suggests we make our way down to the front of the stage where seemingly the entire west coast feg contingent has been congregated since the doors opened. Seemed an impossible task at the time, but here's a tip for you: if you ever need to get through a seemingly impenetrable crowd, get yerself a wheelchair.

Up front we met Glen & Carole, Nick, Jeme, Eddie, Mark, Viv, Sydney, Jay, Chris "and the rest" (sorry to lump everyone else in with the Professor and Mary Anne but bandwidth problems could arise if I try to list everyone). Anita and I stood right behind Tom, which gave us a much better view of things than the people standing right behind Chris.

THEN, the Soft Boys took the stage. They rule the earth. Someone undoubtedly has or will soon post a set list so I'll skip that part and just say that the place RAWKED. The band seemed to really be enjoying themselves, Kimberley Carvey was hilarious, Morris drank Anchor Steam and looked cool, Matthew seemed to be having the time of his life, Robyn & Kimberley had a couple of terrific guitar duels (during one of 'em they actually morphed into a riff that sounded kind of almost sort of like "I Got The Hots", which is good enough for me), Thomas Dolby joined 'em for "Sideways" and one or two others. "Pervert" nearly broke my neck--each member of the band is of course doing something different in that song and I just kept darting my attention from one guy through the next. "Underwater Mooonlight" was awesome... "In the beginning was the excuse," followed by a list of excuses, and at the end of the 'feed the fish' part Robyn slips in a nod to Country Joe by yelling "gimme an F" right before the chorus kicked in (I think I may have been the only person in the audience who actually gave him an F, though). YFF joined 'em for the final final final encore, Give It To The Soft Boys and everyone went home happy.

Spotted in the crowd: Tom Tolbert (former Golden State Warrior, current KNBR sports show host), who somebody thought might have been Chris Fraz' brother, and a guy who looked remarkably like Geddy Lee but no doubt wasn't. Maybe it was Geddy's brother.

I'm told a topic of discussion at the fegdinner (which we missed) was if I had to choose between seeing the soft boys or seeing the Giants in the 7th game of the World Series, which would I choose. When I heard about this I told 'em it would be the World Series, but after last night I'm re-thinking...

Awesome show.

From Glen Uber

The set list is as follows:

Kingdom of Love
Queen of Eyes
Tonight
Old Pervert (this absolutely killed me. an awesome song live)
Your Mind is Connected (?)
Airscape (not as good as I heard it in the past, but everyone else seemed to
enjoy it)
Underwater Moonlight
I Wanna Destroy You (dedicated to "W")
Human Music (great to finally hear this song live)
Leppo and the Jooves (my favorite Soft Boys song; I finally got to hear it
live. Morris's harmonies were spectacular, Kimberley played slide and
Matthew's bass part, while much more subdued than the original, was solid
and punchy).
Only The Stones Remain (with much hand gesticulations from Robyn)
Sudden Town (I really liked this new song. I'm looking forward to the
forthcoming album, _Dave Joins Roger and Then Leaves Himself_)
Insanely Jealous

1st Encore w/Thomas Dolby
You'll Have to Go Sideways (Kimberley played eBow Guitar)
'A New Song' (I don't know what it's called, but there were a lot of 'sha la las')
Astronomy Domine ("Dedicated to everyone who saw the Airplane reunion here in '89". This was absolutely transcendent. The spirit of Syd seemed to be in the air and I instantly knew how it felt to have been at the Fillmore circa 1969.)

2nd Encore
Rock 'n' Roll Toilet
Sleeping With Your Devil Mask
Mr. Kennedy (my favorite of the new songs. do I hear a single?)

3rd Encore
Train 'Round The Bend
Face of Death
Give It To The Soft Boys (Morris, Matthew, and Robyn with 3 of the 4 YFF)

Some personal impressions:

I am speechless (figuratively and literally -- I'm nursing a very a scratchy throat this morning from screaming my ass off. Good thing I quit smoking last year.) I can't imagine anything topping this show for quite sometime. The Soft Boys are my Beatles and I finally got to see the "fab four".

I'm going to be talking about this show for years.

From George Prepared

Going to San Francisco's "legendary" Fillmore (nee Auditorium) has always been an experience not dissimilar to what I imagine indoctrination into Dachau would have been like. After an thorough pat search on the sidewalk ("are you carrying any pepper spray?") entrants must pass through a pair of unpleasant ticket takers with grim expressions, then walk up about 8 steep steps to the next pair of downtrodden Bill Graham Presents employees barking at you to show an I.D. if you wish to drink (if you pass, your hand is stamped with a 3-inch long "OVER 21" image which resembles a road warning sign). Another steep staircase to the lobby follows, and you are rewarded for having run this gauntlet by yet another BGP employee, who cheerily offers a "welcome to the Fillmore!" and an apple from a barrel (this is not a joke.) In my 15 or so years of visits since the venue was reopened these routines have never wavered. When "Dollar" Bill Graham went down to his death in a helicopter crash, I wrongly assumed things might change...

Anyway, the show. Surprisingly full at the 9:00 PM start time, the cavernous and boxy ballroom greets with predictably boomy and bass-heavy thunder. Always one of the least-satisfying venues to listen to live music in; no surprise there. I suppose there are worse barns to go to to hear bands play, but the Fillmore must rank up/down there with the worst of them.

The Young Fresh Fellows are a real paradox. I disliked them the first (and only other) time I saw them, in 1990 at a grotesque Gavin Convention showcase filled with yakking, name-tagged industry whores yelling "hiiiiii!" to each other and drowning out openers Thin White Rope and American Music Club (!!). YFF hasn't changed; a rock-crit's delight fusing multiple 60's-70's pop influences into what this writer always found a transparent and unsatisfying stew. YFF's "personality" is couched in goofiness, which doesn't stop me from loving many "wacky" bands (from SF's brilliant Three Day Stubble to, well, Robin Hitchcock and the Soft Boys), but in YFF's case, their goofiness fails to mask a nagging sense of.. zero. Compositionally, the best Fellows tunes serve only to conjure up memories of their influences (Kinks, Byrds, et al) with a little Seattle rock grit thrown in. But they were clearly jazzed to be opening for Hitchcock and co., and energy was up. They brought Kimberly Rew out to do one of his own recent tunes, and scored a homer with their immediate second guest, Roy Loney of SF's legendary Flaming Groovies, for a fiery cover of the Groovies' "Teenage Head". YFF being fronted by Loney on a regular basis would be a sizeable improvement. Hint hint?

The Soft Boys emerged after a mercifully brief intermission with "Kingdom of Love", a fine rendition marred by the early effort at a decent mix, later improved. Hitchcock's and Rew's guitars began the show pathetically low in the house mix, Seligman's bass clearly dominating. It was a bit of a tragic start, in that it muted the beautiful, kinetic guitar roar propelling the studio version of the tune. But it was a gradual and satisfying ramp-up from there, with a gorgeous "Queen of Eyes" and rollicking "Old Pervert".

By this point, house mix snafus were more or less eliminated and the band stayed in a high-energy mode that pretty much held for the rest of the generous concert. Aside from what seemed to be some subtle tempo-racing by Windsor (whose lovely falsetto voice amazes me; how can one sing like that and play even remotely consistently at the same time?), the Soft Boys generally sounded like a crack outfit. It reminded me of the first Buzzcocks reunion tour in 1989 (the only one with original, and vital, drummer John Maher) in that they seemed to tear the cobwebs off with total abandon, for the most part. Reports I'd read of their first tour show in Austin, indicating that they tended to lumber through the tunes, seemed irrelevant. Rew slashed out chords and lept to and fro, both Hitchcock and Seligman de-tuned periodically to great effect, and in general the whole band was well-oiled. Grins abounded, and if there's lingering discontent between any of them I'd be hard-pressed to say I noticed any of it (aside from observing one "let's get on with it!" hand gesture from Rew during a lengthy Robyn rant). When the two of them locked horns over a wild, soaring, relentless twin guitar solo section in a later encore, it reminded of Television's Verlaine and Lloyd one-upping each other while remaining perfectly in sync. Nice.

Other highlights of the set were stunning "Human Music" and "Leppo and the Jooves" renditions (but no "Sandra's Having Her Brain Out", sadly) and an "Insanely Jealous" to round out the first set, which I would have enjoyed listening to go on for another 20 minutes or so. Hitchcock thoughtfully dedicated "I Wanna Destroy You", again in a somewhat muted rendition, to President Dubya ("no one voted for him, but he's there, anyway").

The first encore brought out a grinning and obviously amused Thomas Dolby to join them for three tunes (including "You'll Have to Go Sideways", a somewhat muted rendition, and "Astronomy Domine", which Hitchcock dedicated to all those who saw the 1989 Jefferson Airplane reunion[!!]) who played one of those fabulously scary keyboards shaped more or less like a guitar, with a pitch bender where the fretboard would be. He played it tabled flat, but eventually draped it around his neck, laughing. An appropriate self-parody which clearly cracked up Windsor standing to his left.

The second encore (no Dolby this time) blasted out with "Rock and Roll Toilet", brilliantly... has that song ever been played in a more appropriate setting? Seligman and Rew shared the mic for "Sleeping With Your Devil Mask", with Seligman's bass cord stretched across the stage to the limit, threatening to pop out of the jack, adding an edge-of-the-seat quality to a kind of by-the-numbers tune. Not one of the highlights of the evening. But things quickly improved with a transcendent version of The Byrds "Bells of Rhymney". With "Rhymney", the Soft Boys proved how successful a cover tune can be even if it closely resembles the original; the delivery transcended mere flattery, mere imitation, even with the strain beginning to appear in Hitchcock's voice. An 8-minute "Mr. Kennedy" didn't fare quite as well due to Robyn's late-in-the-evening vocal, but doors quickly blew open when he and Rew began their guitar pyrotechnics as mentioned above; that Hitchcock had drifted slightly out of tune only validated it somehow. They hardly shrunk away as a result and kept hammering. Do the Soft Boys have permission to jam? I think so.

A third encore brought "music we used to play in bars... bars you could smoke in" (California state law bans smoking in almost all bars and clubs) with "Train Comin' Round the Bend", "Face of Death", and almost all of the Young Fresh Fellows literally taking over for "Give it to the Soft Boys" and a raucous conclusion to a quite satisfying Pop Music Concert.

But... back to Dachau. Emerging from a crowded Fillmore show is a uniquely unpleasant experience; there's one exit (the same steep stairs) for everyone to funnel through. Will newspapers coast-to-coast one day be filled with headlines telling of 800 concert-goers roasted alive when a sudden blaze swept through San Francisco's most famous rock palace? Probably within our lifetimes. Patrons are rewarded at the end of this rat maze with a "limited edition" poster of the event...at least until the stacks run out, usually leading to fisticuffs. The rest of us return home and post them for sale on Ebay. Oh yeah, last night's is particularly ugly, in the Savage Pencil-ripoff comic style. Takers? Write me at expensiveposter@hotmail.com.


woj <woj@smoe.org>