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Robyn Hitchcock
January 25, 2002
The Garage
London

Setlist

Robyn came on alone, with acoustic and played

Gene Hackman
Queen Elvis
1974

He was then joined on stage by three blokes - a Damien, a Christian and a drummer called Morris. They played

I Saw Nick Drake

After which Robyn switched to electric guitar for

Chinese Bones
America
When I Was A Kid
Viva Sea-Tac
Adoration of the City
Somewhere Apart
Dark Princess
The Underneath
Driving Aloud

That was the end of the main set, Robyn (with acoustic) and Morris return for the encore with

Winchester

Switches then to electric for

Airscape (which is much, much better with Morris's harmonies than Robyn on his own)

Damien and Christian return for

Ted, Woody & Junior
So You Think You're In Love
Jewels For Sophia

Reviews

From Rob

The first time I've seen Robyn for a couple of years, and it was really good. My new girlfriend seemed to like it too.

As Element of Light is one of my all time favourite albums, I was particularly pleased to get more than just Airscape again.

From Matt Sewell

Just a couple of observations to add to Rob's...

Robyn had a very odd pick-up arrangement for his accoustic - a little mic taped to the sound hole... not sure why, as it amplified the pick striking the strings, making a hollow click on top of the strings' usual sound... I thought the drum kit and (particularly) the double bass did indeed bode well...

When Robyn appeared, shirt untucked (still working on losing that Christmas excess, I guess) he introduced the gig by saying that we'd all be made to feel comfortable by the songs he was going to play - sure enough when he started with Gene Hackman, I immediately did feel very comfortable - I first saw Robyn live in 95, in the midst of his accoustic troubadour phase so it took me right back ( actually as a footnote to this, I thought when I first saw him, solo, accoustic, that this would be the extent of Robyn gigs forever more. I had assumed that the Soft Boys had melted away forever, and that the Egyptians had pulled away from the platform, leaving me forlornly spectating Robyn+accoustic forever more - how wrong I was!).

The introductions to the songs, I noticed, especially in this early part of the set were as long and rambling (needless to say, of course, entertaining) as they have been for a long while, and Robyn's mood seemed to be smiley and pleasant, in fact almost nervous despite the fact the songs were being exceedingly well received.

As for the backing band... I'm reliably informed they are Rich Hall's Otis Lee Crenshaw band, well, bassist and guitarist, and of course Morris. Now this was weird - why have Morris up there (this is assuming Robyn wanted something that was identifiably different to the Soft Boys (When I Was A Kid was the closest they came to SBs material)) and not Kimberley (who was in the audience!). I thought the guitarist on stage, though a more-than-capable session man, was a pretty poor alternative, and in a way kind of masking the fact that this seemed to be The Egyptians-Andy M. Perhaps I'm over-analysing this gig...

Chinese Bones I thought was fantastic, never having seen it live+electric before, as was When I Was A Kid (I believe, for you trainspotter-obsessives, it was the Gravy Deco version). The rest of the set was much more within the range of recent RH gigs, except The Devil's Radio, which wasn't this song at all, but actually Diving Aloud (Radio Storm)... great to hear live, but disappointing the bassist couldn't manage the proper bassline.

Winchester was exceptional, as was Airscape, for all the reasons Rob gives. Ted, Woody & Junior was a surprise, but (for me) a novelty rather than something ever hoped-for. So You Think You're In Love was introduced as being a song Robyn had written for the Rutles.

Jewels for Sophia was the strangest version I'd ever heard, less driving than the original, in fact it was downright funky... like RH covering Curtis Mayfield covering RH... most odd.

Overall, it was the erm, "loosest" Robyn gig that perhaps I've ever been to, I think a very good one in terms of what they played, and a quite good one in terms of how they played it (and who played it, or rather, in Kimberley's case, who didn't...). One last point - all the electric guitar by Robyn at this gig came from a black Strat... that poor blue tele relegated to being the other guitarist's spare...

Perhaps we've been spoiled by all those Soft Boys gigs...!

From Ed Poole

I agree it's a shame we didn't meet up -- it was more crowded than I had expected, and I forgot the secret handshake (and had no neon Thoths to wear to make myself perfectly obvious.) In any event, I spent most of the show hanging out with the lady selling CDs -- who knew NOTHING about Robyn, but was filling in for a sick friend -- so she referred all questions ("hey, I'm from Seattle! Is that Sea-Tac song on any of these CDs?") to me. I ended up making an annotated setlist for her, so she could tell people what songs were on the albums she was selling, and which folks would have to hunt down at HMV, Tower or -- better still -- Reckless Records in Soho. This little exercise demonstrated an interesting fact -- the vast majority of the tunes played were from JfS, SfB, and EoL -- both SfB & EoL were for sale in the back. I'm guessing the newcomers were given these three discs to learn the songs. I could be wrong.

Anyway, I have only one dissent from the setlists given so far (and I add my own observations below) -- they didn't play "Devil's Radio," but rather "Driving Aloud (Radio Storm)"). Close, though.

Garage, London, 25th January 2002, Robyn Hitchcock And...

Solo acoustic:
1. Gene Hackman ("I'll have a cold shower/ I'll have a large cone full of whelks/ And if you force me to choose my favorite large Canadian mammal/ I'd have to admit it was the elk...")
2. Queen Elvis
3. 1974

RH acoustic + Morris + stand-up bass + acoustic guitar:
4. Nick Drake

RH electric + Morris + stand-up bass + acoustic guitar:
5. Chinese Bones

RH electric + Morris + stand-up bass + electric guitar:
6. America
7. When I Was a Kid
8. Viva Sea-Tac
9. Adoration of the City

RH electric + Morris + electric bass + electric guitar:
10. Somewhere Apart
11. Dark Princess
12. The Underneath
13. Driving Aloud

Encores:
RH acoustic + Morris:
14. Winchester (agreed -- this was a rare and fantastic treat)

RH electric + Morris:
15. Airscape (I dissent -- I thought this was one of the worst renditions I've heard of this, admittedly, great song. Robyn couldn't handle the guitar melody line properly, and even the ever stalwart Morris had some troubles with the harmonies. Too slow, as well. I guess the great Soft Boys versions of this one form 2001 ruined it for me, really).

RH electric + Morris + stand-up bass + electric guitar:
16. Ted, Woody & Junior (the highlight of the show, for me anyway. Never having heard this one live, though one of my favorite RH songs, plus the arrangement was very nice. When introduced as "about three guys in the bathroom together," I thought it would be "Rock 'n' Roll Toilet." This was better, though.)

17. So You Think You're In Love (having previously dismissed this tune as "Robyn-lite," and feeling that it was a crass attempt to craft a song that could be played on the radio -- as RH said to Dave Kendall on MTV's "120 Minutes" when this album came out, "I consciously tried to write some tunes without so many trolls & trilobites this time around" -- I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. It's just a very nicely constructed pop song, which sounded great live. Distance and context is everything, I guess).

18. Jewels for Sophia ("for Michelle" -- I guess that's better than having "Insanely Jealous" dedicated for you, or "Airscape" as has been done countless times.)

All in all, very enjoyable and, I agree, pretty "loose." Still, many of these songs were a surprise to me -- esp. Winchester, Ted Woody & Junior & When I was A Kid -- and the back-up players were competent, if not great. It was nice to have a rock & roll band, though, as much as I enjoy RH's solo gigs. Much better for a friday night out, this way.

Lastly, from my vantage point, next to the sound man, I could see that the reverb on RH's vocal mike was set to "Fuck Off Nosey, delay 2.0." That made me laugh, tho I suppose it was the Garage's choice & not RH's.

Oh, I almost forgot -- I don't think anyone has pointed out to Kay (and whoever else tracks such things) that Robyn was wearing a bright red shirt with garish green pears on it. At least he wasn't wearing *those pants* -- and I think you know what I mean.


woj <woj@fegmania.org>