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I'll Retrogress Any Time
The Soft Boys Reunion

Norwich Waterfront
12 January 1994

By Kevin Smith

They were excellent of course.

They opened with Hear My Brane then did Face Of Death, Leppo And The Jooves, Where Are The Prawns, Mystery Train, Pigworker, Return Of The Sacred Crab, I Wanna Destroy You, Kingdom Of Love, Insanely Jealous, Queen Of Eyes, Underwater Moonlight.

They encored with Give It To The Soft Boys, Do The Chisel and a song I didn't know. Robyn introduced it as "The closest we get to Led Zep"!

The band were really tight and the guitar playing was superb. They had a stand-in guitarist for Kimberley.

London Astoria
15 January 1994

By Elaine Pym

I thought it would be a bit bad when I went in. There was hardly anyone there to start with and the support acts were really bad. There was a really bad punk band called Liberty Cage and an Australian band, Weddings Parties Anything who had one good song, Saturday Night but the rest were really bad.

Thankfully it filled up until by the time the Soft Boys came on it was full.

They came on without Kimberley. (Robyn said he was in bed.). I thought that having the Soft Boys without Kimberley was missing the point. They had someone called Sean on guitar. There were also Robyn (of course), Morris, Andy, Matthew and Jim Melton, who said it was his first gig in London for fourteen years. All the playing was really good, not like the reunion gig I went to in 1992. Robyn had a new haircut and looked really sexy as did Matthew.

They opened with Do The Chisel which wasn't very good but the rest was great. I think the highlights were Underwater Moonlight and Insanely Jealous but everything was really good. Everything was from the albums except a cover of Mystery Train by Elvis and new song which Robyn introduced saying "I wrote this for Robert Plant". I didn't get the words to it but it was something about "Fine Spines" with a really good beat. Robyn sang it in a funny voice. They also did Acid Bird.

All in all, a really good evening.

Cambridge Corn Exchange
17 January 1994

By Aidan Merritt

Queen Elvis was right; time is round. The Portland Arms may be closed down, but Syd still lives two miles up the road. Katrina & the Waves play Cambridge pubs regularly (including last Saturday when Kimberley should have been playing the Astoria). Despite the almost complete lack of publicity - and the smallness of this town - the cavernous Corn Exchange is almost full, and everyone knows every lyric to every track. However much Robyn tries to attach himself to the coat-tails of US trendies and ignore the past Cambridge will forever be the spiritual home of the Soft Boys. Today, it's like they never left.

Even given Robyn's proud tradition of crap support acts, the three support bands tonight are bad. Liberty Cage nee Men They Couldn't Hang snatch the Worst Support Act Ever crown from the Rockingbirds; their act seems to be one punk riff played over and over again for three quarters of an hour, and doing Nazi salutes between songs isn't big or clever - just sad attention-seeking. Weddings Parties Anything are pathetic Australian Squeeze impersonators. The reforming for the night of 'legendary' group The Bible is just embarrassing; nobody in the audience gives a toss about them and they just drone on in the background like a watered-down Big Star for an hour.

Finally Robyn, Andy, Matthew, Morris, Jim and Sean Lyons (but no Kimberley I'm told 'politics' has kept him off this tour) come up and play the same set as the other gigs on the tour; Chisel, Wey Wey Hep, Face of Death, Queen of Eyes, Pigworker, Moonlight, Pervert, Brane, Prawns, Mystery Train, Insanely Jealous and Kingdom. Everything except Do The Chisel (a bit naff) is at the least competent and at best superb. The Underwater Moonlight tracks sound particularly good.

I feel a bit sorry for Sean. Nobody seems to like him much - he was described to me as an "insignificant little man", he doesn't appear to do much, and no matter what he does everyone will always say he's worse than Kimberley. I'm as guilty as anyone, but tonight Kimberley came on for the last two tracks of the main set and the encores, and I couldn't tell any difference.

For the encore they played Give It, Acid Bird and Only The Stones, as at the other dates on the tour. At the second encore, where at other dates they played Leppo tonight Robyn spent five minutes throwing prawns and tins of crabs into the audience. (I am not making this up.) They then played the new track which I didn't like, but listening to it on tape it's grown on me, and I Wanna Destroy You which ended with Morris jumping into the air and landing on the drum kit - he really should be taking it easy at his time of life!

It may not have been original but it was great fun, and compared to the other reunions of last year - Big Star, the Velvet bloody Underground it was by far the best. Yes, it's musical necrophilia. But at least it was necrophilia with a beautiful and freshly-rouged corpse.


This article originally appeared in issue 2 of Positive Vibrations, the Soft Boys/Robyn Hitchcock/Kimberley Rew magazine. It may be distributed freely but may not be sold except with permission of the author or publisher.

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