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The Soft Boys
October 17, 2002
The Mean Fiddler



From Matt Sewell

Well, I've not seen any other reviews for the Mean Fiddler gig, so here's mine... there's not a great deal to write about in terms of surprises in the setlist - the set was very similar to the Railway...

Getting off the Oxford Tube, which had crawled into London, we took the proper tube to Charing Cross... hmm, couldn't find the venue, ridiculously enough, ended up flagging a cab. The venue has an entrance that is scaffolded and unmarked - we have to check with the bouncers that we have the right place. Once we're in, it's downstairs to the bar, which overlooks the stage and audience area... stood at the bar is an ex-Ugly Rumour in full evening dress - no, not the one that runs the country, answering only to GWBush, the other one, Old Grey Whistle Test bloke. Anyway, we buy our cans and get our plastic glasses and make our way down to the front of the audience. We've missed the support band.

It doesn't seem like long before the Soft Boys pop up and plug in. Kingdom of Love begins the set - the band look like they're enjoying themselves immensely, Robyn is all smiles and it feels like this set will top even last night's. The set was entirely the same as Winchester's up until Bells Of Rhymney, thus we have Queen Of Eyes (of course), an excellent version of Mr K, before which Robyn explains who Mr K is, and the circumstances of the tour with Sebadoh. Sudden Town is introduced with a long spiel about trams and how long ago it was since there were any in London... I think that people were talking all the way through this, which seemed to annoy Robyn somewhat - he went on to say that this audience like everyone in the modern world doesn't have the attention span to hear about overhead wiring (I'm paraphrasing very heavily here). During this, a thin, tatooed woman pushed her way in front of where we were standing. As Robyn finished his intro she attempted to but in "Can we just say that we love you Robyn". A shudder of annoyance from me and everyone around me, a slightly withering look from Robyn. Sudden Town, as last night, is superb, quite a highlight.

Unfortunately, during Sudden Town, the thin, tatooed, annoying woman is joined by a tall bloke in a Slipknot t-shirt, who starts dancing in that modern, rap-kinda stylee you see so much on MTV. I turn to Jim Bishop and point out the bloke's got the wrong t-shirt on. The geezer must have picked up on this as he takes off his t-shirt almost as I'm saying it. He's naked from the waist up for the rest of the gig (am I wrong and uptight to object to this?). The bloke's mate throws a t-shirt onto the stage.

I still can't believe it when they play Hear My Brane, even though I heard it last night, the same goes for Vegetable Man. Both songs are as good as you'd expect them to be, the guitar duet in HMB being again a highlight, as is the instumental in VM. Robyn picks up the t-shirt and inspects it. It is a Rage Against The Machine one. He's not impressed.

"We love you Robyn" says the annoying woman, everyone around thinks "shut-up", Robyn gives a long intro to Bells of Rhymney. Someone shouts out "Bells Of Rhymney". "Very accurately forseen, my friend" says Robyn. There may have been annoyance in his voice, or I may have been projecting. What the hell is up with this audience? BoR is absolutely fantastic - I've always found the Soft Boys' version a little raggety, but tonight it shines.

A lovely, warm version of La Cherite follows, then I Love Lucy. Robyn's keeping the intros short now. "We love you Robyn" says the annoying woman. Her bloke is having some sort of altercation with the kind bloke who gave me my blim back on the boat trip. The mood in the audience is about the strangest I've experienced at a Robyn gig, perhaps entirely down to these dreadful people in front. I think they've probably taken rather too much cocaine.

Pulse Of My Heart is good, When I Was A Kid is fantastic, really awesome, better than any of the studio versions. "We love you Robyn" shouts the bloody woman. "Shut up" shouts everybody, out loud. Strings takes on a menacing vibe - perhaps it's the audience, but today it's almost frightening. An absolutely mighty I Wanna Destroy You blows up in our faces, followed by the octave groove of UM.

I can't remember the mid-song rant... anyone who was there, could you? That's the end of the set. The kind bloke who gave me back my blim on the boat trip is now virtually coming to blows with the bloke not wearing the Slipknot t-shirt. I use this as an excuse to push past Mr Naked and Mr Kind and enjoy the encores.

Narcissus is first, a song that's really growing on me. Only The Stones Remain is very welcome, grinning and ovulating for those of you keeping score. Unprotected Love is, like last night, a real highlight, Insanely Jealous closely on its heels. "Happy Christmas" says Robyn. "We love you Robyn" says that bloody woman, "shut-up" says everyone else. The Soft Boys disappear for a second time, reappearing to give us Rocknroll Toilet.

The lights come up, the annoying couple melt away, as does the kind bloke and his wife. We drift off to the aptly named (and inaptly quite horrible) Moon Under Water for a post-gig beer. It's as great as it usually is to see the many regulars: it's a shame there just wasn't enough time to speak to all for as long as I'd wanted.

The Soft Boys are currently on fire; by the time they get off the plane, they'll probably be burned to a crisp. Enjoy the US shows!

woj <woj@fegmania.org>