Concert appearance: Fri., 5 Nov. 2004
Milwaukee, Wisconsin US
Raymond Chandler Evening :acoustic
I Got the Hots
Serpent at the Gates of Wisdom
The Cheese Alarm
You Remind Me of You
We're Gonna Live in the Trees
Sometimes a Blonde
Only the Stones Remain
Full Moon in My Soul
Autumn is Your Last Chance :electric
I Often Dream of Trains
Heart Full of Leaves
Sally Was a Legend
Encore: When You're in Love With a Beautiful Woman (Dr. Hook) medley: acoustic
Encore: Rock Your Baby (George McCrea) medley
Encore: Sound + Vision (David Bowie) medley
Here's a bit about last night's show.
Robyn wasn't in especially strong voice -- his upper range cracked and
faded a bit and cleared his throat often between songs, and I wondered if
he wasn't a bit under the weather. No matter, he went for it as best he
could in every song, and his playing was much more focused than the last
time I saw him solo, in '95. Song highlights included the Soft Boys' "I
Got the Hots," "Serpent at the Gates of Wisdom," "Idonia," and several
songs from Spooked and Luxor. Was hoping he'd play "The President," or
maybe "America," but "Queen Elvis" left me weeping, seeming especially
pointed and poignant this week.
Surrealist banter aplenty: Introducing "I Got the Hots:" "The last time I
was in Milwaukee, Mr. Clinton was president. If you like, you can imagine
him singing this. We don't sound alike, but we have similar
complexions...and...appetites" Introducing "Cheese Alarm" he spun a tale
about the cheese addiction he and Michelle had overcome, and the
difficulties they had socializing at parties when their eyes were gummed
over with "a fog of brie." He comforted us by revealing the secret
weaknesses of the current administration: "Dick Cheney is terrified of
Emperor Penguins... You've never seen a press photo of him in Antarctica,
have you? And Mr. Rumsfeld....is terrified of bread. You'll notice how his
handlers surround him with a barrier of olives at the dinner table." The
prelude to "Lysander" was a tale about flying on a plane without pilots,
over the chessboard of midwestern farm fields, watching a film of "pilots
having an orgy. Black & White, from the 70s. German, natch. And on a
loop, so the film never...arrives." Meanwhile the passengers realize that
they are in turn being watched by enormous chess pieces in the fields, all
knights, all turning their horse heads to follow the plane. "None of which
is in this song, but that's the mood I meant to convey."
Closed the show with an electric set, and ended up by noisily removing the
pickup from his acoustic guitar and strolling into the audience to sing a
cover of the 70s pop song with chorus that goes "something something rock
me babe" (I can't identify it, and boy, searching AllMusic.com for songs
with "Rock Me" in the title is fruitless, and also why is it that all the
lyrics sites on the web suck such bitter eggs and are so keen to pick
fights with my anti-virus software?). By way of an original verse that
rhymed butter with stutter this morphed into "Sound & Vision," complete
with Bowie impression. All in all, a grand time...
The area near Shank Hall in Milwaukee is filled with shops, bars and trendy
little restaurants, so I took the opportunity of being early to wander around,
nibble here and there, read the Onion and generally unwind. Robyn was warming
up when I went to pick up my will-call, and while the ticket-printing machine
got fixed I hung inside awhile and enjoyed a few songs. Pleased to see that
besides the acoustic, he was soundchecking a beautiful, natural-finish
Telecaster with a white pickguard. He looked rather stern and preoccupied.
I won't do song-by-song notes, but suffice to say this was my favorite Robyn
show. Ever. He played three songs each from SPOOKED from LUXOR, and all of
those save one are IMO among the better ones from their respective albums.
Opening with "Raymond Chandler," "Hots," "Serpent" and "Balloon Man" was sure
a treat, and starting the electric set with three straight from IODOT was
unbelievable. I'm going to go back and listen to the recording shortly, just
to make sure I heard "Heart Full of Leaves" ;)
Generally speaking Robyn's voice was all over the place; sometimes on the
verge of breaking and not even trying for notes, while others rich and supple
and the best I've heard in ages. The newer material is better suited to his
capabilities now, and since it was sung that way in the studio there was
nothing to miss. Seemingly contrary to previous shows, the plectrum was back
in full force - most of the show was flat-picked, occasionally changing to
fingers for the softer numbers and a slide where required ("We're Gonna Live
in the Trees"). Also a TON of harmonica, which Robyn promised he would cut
down on next time.
The show dynamics were extremely well managed - you can tell by the setlist
that there was a lot of up/down and loud/soft stuff going on which the board
man had perfectly mixed. It was certainly the best sounding Robyn show I have
Banter was plentiful and funny, as expected a fair bit of political nonsense
('Karl Rove is terrified of Emperor penguins'), and as the show wound on the
gruffness he had pre-show melted away and he seemed to warm up to the audience
nicely. In fact he spent the last song (acoustic medley) unplugged and
unmiked, wandering around the audience as we all sung the backing parts to
"Rock Me Baby," "When You're in Love with Beautiful Woman" or "Sound + Vision"
as appropriate. After disappearing with a flourish, he came out a few minutes
later and spent quite a while signing everything that was put in front of
Show length 1:45 with no intermission.
Robyn Hitchcock, very much the man in form.
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