Robyn Hitchcock... Gigography

Robyn Hitchcock Tim Keegan, Kimberley Rew, Deni Bonet, Peter Blegvad, more
Concert appearance: Sun., 2 Mar. 2003

Queen Elizabeth Hall
London, England UK
Robyn's 50th birthday concert

Set list:

Ghost Ship solo
I Got the Hots
Arms of love
I'm Only You
Chinese Bones
Queen Elvis enter Tim
I Saw Nick Drake enter Chris
I Feel Beautiful enter Kimberley
De Chirico Street enter Deni, John, Peter, Morris
Open the Door, Homer (Bob Dylan)
Fly By Night (Peter Blegvad) Robyn w/Peter & John
Ice Fishing At Night (John Paul Jones)
Sally Was a Legend enter Kimberley
I Often Dream of Trains exit Peter & John
She Doesn't Exist enter many people…
Dark Princess
Madonna of the Wasps
Balloon Man
Jewels for Sophia
[Alan Rickman reads an extract from Robyn]
Encore: She Said She Said (The Beatles)
Encore: A Man's Got To Know His Limitations, Briggs
Encore: Speed of Things
Encore: We Like Bananas (Yacich)

I can only provide a setlist up to the first encore as I had to sprint for
the last train to Bath:

Ghost Ship - very good, hadn't heard it before. Drowned sailors abounding.
I got the hots
Arms of love
I'm only you
Chinese bones

_Enter Tim_
Queen Elvis

_Enter Chris Cox_
I saw Nick Drake

_Enter Kimberley Rew_
I feel beautiful

_Enter Deni Bonet, John Paul Jones, Peter Blegvad, Morris Windsor_
De Chirico Street
Open the Door Richard


_Enter Robyn, Peter Blegvad, John Paul Jones_
Fly by night (Blegvad)
Ice fishing (John Paul Jones + Peter Blegvad)

_Enter Kim_
Sally was a legend

_Exit Blegvad and Jones_
IODOT (highlight of the evening, needless to say)

_Enter miscellaneous people (I lost track here)
She doesn't exist any more
Dark Princess (highlight of the evening among songs I'm less keen on)
America (with anti-Bushies intro)
Madonna of the Wasps
Balloon Man
Jewels for Sophia

_End of set_

Alan Rickman reads an extract from Robyn (from the novella, perchance?)

She said she said (Morris, Peter Blegvad and Robyn on harmonies)
A man's got to know his limitations, Briggs

They were obviously gearing up for more encores but I had to split (it's
an old-fashioned way to say goodbye).

Tim played acoustic guitar and percussion, JPJ played mandolin, piano and
bass guitar, Peter Blegvad played guitar, Chris Cox played double bass and
mandolin, others played their normal instruments. More later.

- - Xipe the Flayed God
(Actually it's me, Mike G., o d'd on too much pulque and

I hope someone got a recording. Alan made a couple of amusing remarks
about how he was unable to handle a reading from Captain Beefheart which
Robyn had suggested, and then he read quite a long Hitchcock piece about
life flowing through things and then running dry, but (a) I was near the
back and (b) my hearing aid was playing up, so I missed most of the

To tell the truth I found the show a wee bit desolate. Robyn was in
full-scale death trip mode and I had spent the afternoon studying Aztec
methods of human sacrifice ["... select obsidian knife K decorated with
face and teeth, slice flesh along A-B, connect to incision at Z, and
extract heart whilst still beating. Deposit heart on chacmool M, then flay
skin along dotted line X-Y. If flayed skin smells too bad, make sure that
the Skin Depository Jar D is fully locked by twisting flange C. IMPORTANT:
the sacrifice must still be alive at this stage, or the sun will refuse to
rise tomorrow..."].

Anyway, what I'm driving at is that I could have coped with a bit more
light relief, and the show wasn't exactly a laugh a minute. I can't really
grumble about the omission of any specific number when I don't know what
all the encores were, but my impression was that he was actively avoiding
Soft Boys material. Maybe he played Kingdom of Love or Only the Stones
Remain or Insanely Jealous at the end?

- - Huitzilipochtli

from Charlotte:

As has already been reported, the 50th Birthday Celebration was very
enjoyable. Robyn seemed in good spirits, despite all the talk of death...
'Chinese Bones', 'Queen Elvis' and 'I Often Dream Of Trains' were sublime.
To top it all off, I had the pleasure of meeting him afterwards. He was so
friendly, very willing to engage in conversation. What a great guy!

from Christopher:

I noticed Matthew Seligman in the foyer of the RFH prior to the gig and was
surprised that he wasn't part of the performance.

I guess he was in the audience though?

I enjoyed the gig a lot, although the band seemed a little unrehearsed at
times, and they transformed a simple, beautiful (devoid of baggage)Blegvad
song into a menagerie of sound. At times, John Paul Jones didn't seem too
sure what instrument he was supposed to be playing for the next song...

These were minor quibbles though. For me the atmosphere was great, with
many a spine-tingling moment. Very nice to see him in a sizeable venue too.
A stark contrast with the 12 bar club. Hammill at the Lowry in Manchester
and Hitchcock in the QEH within three weeks! One of the best months of
music in recent years....

Definitely worth the four hour there, four hour back bus trip (and an hour
and a half walk) from Stoke-on-Trent, even considering the lesson I had to
teach at 9:00 this morning.....

My first impression of the Luxor CD is that they're sketches of songs, some
of which, I would expect, may end up on forthcoming albums.

from David P.:

Well here it is the most anticipated show of the century, well by us
anyway. Was it worth the wait? Dammed right it was.
I arrived early to get a parking space on Waterloo Bridge and spent
an hour hanging round Festival Pier and the Royal Festival Hall. At
about 6 o'clock as it was getting dark and I found myself walking
towards "Matthew Seligman", either it was him or he has an exact
double. Anyway as I approached him he ran off towards The Royal
Festival Hall, which is just a short distance from the Queen
Elizabeth Hall, and disappeared inside. Only to reappear after about
a minute and then hot foot it back inside again, strange!
When I got to the concert hall at about 6.50 there was no-one there,
the show was about to start at 8.00, was I in the right place, right
day, right year?
O.K. so about 7.15 the place was buzzing but still not a radish in
sight, Rik where were you?
The show itself started promptly at about 8.00 with Robyn coming on
by himself and singing a few acoustic numbers, including "I Got The
Hots For You" (see the cake picture), and "Chinese Bones".
Robyn then introduced "tonight's first victim" and Tim Keegan came on
to play "Queen Elvis". After which the other guests came on one song
at a time. Chris Cox playing double bass , Kimberley Rew playing the
fool, Morris Windsor playing drums of course, John Paul Jones playing
mandolin/electric bass/grand piano, and Deni Bonet playing violin.
They played until 9.00, including a fantastic version of "De Chirico
Street", then took a 20-minute interval.
During the break someone spotted Tim Keegan talking to members of the
audience behind us. This was the chance I had been waiting for, so I
approached him and asked if he would be kind enough to pass the card
to Robyn. He said no problem but would I rather give it to him myself
after the show, he would be back out after the show and would try to
get us to Robyn.
Second set ran for 50 minutes or so then Robyn said goodbye. Everyone
left the stage, and then a single figure appeared and walked up to
the microphone. It was none other than Alan Rickman who is now very
well known for his role as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter
movies. He announced that Robyn had promised to play some more songs
if he read one of Robyn's poems, so he did. (Sorry I don't know the
name of the poem.)
Robyn came back on by himself and said "that's as it sounds in Harry
Potter", the audience broke into a rendition of "Happy Birthday",
Robyn played this down but did seem touched by the sentiment. He then
played a solo electric version of "She Doesn't Exist Anymore".
The second encore included "She Said" by the Beatles, "Sally Was A
Legend", a brilliant version of "Balloon Man", and the final song was
one of the The Soft Boys first "We Like Bananas". They finished when
they were forced to stop at about 10.45, with Robyn announging "we
have to stop now, the gates are closed". They left the stage to a
standing ovation, which lasted several minutes.
After the show Tim Keegan was as good as his word and Robyn came out
to accept the card, saying, "who's the signature guy then?" He
noticed the `stamp' on the envelope had not been franked and asked
if it has been sent from abroad. He didn't open it there but would
save it for his birthday tomorrow.
We had to be let out of the artist's entrance by a security guard as
by this time the main doors were locked.
Wow what a night, all this and a new Robyn Hitchcock album to listen
to on the way home, can life get any better?

From The Guardian, 4 March 2003:

Robyn Hitchcock, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

(Four stars out of a possible five)

There is nothing more tedious than watching other people do drugs.
Watching the fruits of other people's drug-taking, however, is generally
much more entertaining. To be fair, I have absolutely no idea whether Robyn
Hitchcock, wonky idealogue of the Soft Boys, friend to the stars and the
very definition of a cult, indulges but negotiating the lysergic logic of
his lyrics, you feel that the doors of perception have been not so much
cleansed as painted in garish colours and left permanently ajar.

A birthday concert to celebrate, as Hitchcock explains after bounding on
stage in the first of three overwhelmingly colourful shirts, 50 glorious
years of me, brings out a similarly colourful gaggle of friends. As well
as Soft Boys Morris Windsor and Kimberley Rew (a deft but largely unshowy
guitarist), there is Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, expat ambassador
of oddball Americana Peter Blegvad, Alan Rickman reading a poem (of course)
and, hello, Peter Blake exiting the gents.

Hitchcock's is a particularly English brand of psychedelia, defiantly an
acquired taste. (My companion, a Hitchcock virgin, displays amusingly
visible discomfort through much of the show.) In between songs he empties
the contents of his mind like a madwoman's handbag, offering thoughts on
asking Mozart for the soap in the shower; how, in the genetically modified
future, we will all be either Elvis or Marilyn; and his hopes that Bush,
Blair et al will open their third eyes. My companion rolls his.

The songs themselves: the proud children of Dylan, Syd Barrett and the
Beatles work better when Hitchcock performs solo, or with a trio, than
when there are as many as eight people on stage. The influence on REM of
the Soft Boys marvellous 1980 debut Underwater Moonlight is obvious;
sometimes, though, you wonder if it really takes this many people to sound
like the Levellers. But Queen Elvis is beautiful and brave, the ancient
English folk melody of The Speed Of Things deeply affecting, the ambivalent
kiss-off of She Doesn't Exist strange and haunting. Like all surrealists,
Hitchcock makes you look at familiar things askance and anew. If his songs
sometimes become tangled in self-consciously wide-eyed imagery, a childlike
playfulness carries him through. Then again, the poem read by Rickman, a
kind of bleakly psychedelic Larkin, finds him at his most serious. "I'm a
mirror cracked from side to side," he sings at one point, which pretty much
sums it up.

During the concert Alan Rickman read a poem written by Robyn. Here is the text:

If death is not the end, I'd like to know what is.

For all eternity we don't exist,
except for now.
In my gumshoe mac, I shuffled to the clifftop,
Stood well back,
and struck a match to light my life;
And as it flared it fell in darkness
Lighting nothing but itself.

I saw my life fall and thought:
Well, kiss my physics!
Time is over, or it's not,
But this I know:
Life passes through us like the blade
Of bamboo growing through the prisoner pegged down in the glade
It pierces your blood, you screaming head -
Life is what happened to the dead.

Forever we do not exist
Except for now.
Life passes through us like a beam
Of charcoal green - a golden gleam,
The opposite of how it seems:
It's not you that goes through life
- life is the knife that cuts your dream
Around the seam
And leaves you turned on in the stream, laughing with your mouth
Until the stream is gone,
Leaving you cracked mud,
Not even there to be absent,
From the heartbeat of a dying fish.

In bed, upstairs, I feel your pulse run with the clock
And reach your hand
And lock us with our fingers
As if we were bumping above the Pole.
Yet I know by dawn
Your hand will be dry bone
I'll have slept through your goodbye,no matter how long I wake.

Life winds on,
Through Cheri and Karl who can no longer smell chocolate,
Or see with wonder wind inflate the sail,
Or answer mail

Life flies on
Through Katy who was Catherine but is bound for Kate
Who looks over her shoulder at the demon Azmodeus,
And sees the Daily Mail

(I clutch my purse. I had it just now.)

Life slices through
The frozen butter in the Alpine wreck.

(I found your photo upside down
I never kissed a girl so long,
So long, so lovely or so wrong)

Life is what kills you in the end
And I can cry
But you won't be there to be sorry
You were made of life

For ever we did not exist
We woke and for a second kissed.

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