Robyn Hitchcock... Gigography

Robyn Hitchcock & Minus 3 w/ Morris Windsor
Concert appearance: Thu., 26 Jan. 2006

Fleece and Firkin
Bristol, England UK
"A Very Military Barge"

Set list:

If You Were A Priest
Acid Bird
When I Was A Kid
Ole Tarantula
Adventure Rocket Ship
Flesh Number One (Beatle Dennis)
A Man's Got To Know His Limitations, Briggs
Chinese Bones
Somewhere Apart
Sally Was A Legend
Creeped Out
Madonna Of The Wasps
Driving Aloud (Radio Storm)
Beautiful Queen
Encore: Cigarettes, Coffee and Booze (Minus 5) Scott vocals
Encore: Aw Shit Man (Minus 5) Scott vocals
Encore: Eight Miles High (Byrds)
Encore: Queen Of Eyes
Encore: I Wanna Destroy You
Encore: Give It To The Soft Boys

The night's celebrity guest was Morris. He was on stage from the start of the mellower songs until the end of the show to provide percussion and backing vocals. Very good to see him there, especially for the bandless Television. Very, very packed and the Fleece ran out of bitter. I don't think a live recording has ever emerged from the Fleece.

Now for the list of random observations. Robyn and the band all seemed to be having a lot of fun except for PB who seemed a bit disconected - even looking bored while playing the minus 5 tracks. The rythym section kept it simpler than the Egyptians might have but produced a hefty quantity of pure-rock power. This disapated a bit for the "softer" songs (around Brigs to Bones) when a bit of a lull set in. Robyn's playing was as impressive as ever. He seems to have worked out new solos for the older songs and took full advantage of the Kim free environment to indulge himself ( but not overly). Seemed a touch more effect heavy than I remember. The highlights for me where When I Was A Kid, the menacing Creeped Out where I started to hallucinate a video for the song, the dueted Television whose bing-bongs now seem absolutely correct and the especially venomous I Wanna Destroy you.


The set list:

If You Were A Priest
Acid Bird
When I Was A Kid
Adventure Rocket Ship

[Enter Morris]: Birdshead
Flesh #1 (Beatle Dennis)
Briggs [complete with long long story about Clint Eastwood]
Chinese Bones
Somewhere Apart
Sally Was A Legend
Behind Your Eyes(?)

Exit Scott And Peter

Bing Bong(?), Robyn, Morris and Bill

Re-enter Scott and Peter

Madonna of the Wasps
I Feel Like A Legend(?) (song with mention of chinchilla)
Driving Aloud
Beautiful Queen

Encores: Cigarettes And Whiskey And Wild Wild Women
Some other song (I was too busy looking for rare badges to pay attention) Queen of Eyes (with extra verse I wish I was up, I wish I was down)
Eight Miles High
I Wanna Destroy You (dedicated to "fucking Tony Blair") Give It To The Soft Boys.

The pluses were as follows:
They opened with a very confident 'If You Were A Priest', followed by 'Acid Bird' - both great songs which were in the set the first time I saw Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians in 1986. He seems to have settled on "Please don't lock away your eyes" rather than varying the last line. Then "stagger back to your childhood - was it really such a nightmare - of course it was" - and into "When I Was A Kid".

After that it was downhill a lot of the way until a lift in the performance when Morris came on to perform "Birdshead", "Beatle Dennis", "Bing Bong" (?), "Beautiful Queen", "Queen of Eyes", "Eight Miles High" and some other songs.

RH apparently believes that "Madonna of the Wasps", has not to have been issued in the UK - either he has forgotten that it is on the Kershaw Sessions, complete with extra intro, or he doesn't count that as an official release.

Savage indictment of Tony Blair before "I Wanna Destroy You". Robyn also dissed the British electorate fairly comprehensively, until he realised it was us, the audience, whom he was slagging off, when he apologised a bit.

"Beautiful Queen" was OK, but no substitute for a performance in a wet fairground with Jake and Tim.

Brilliant merchandise, as mentioned by Peter from Cambridge. I spent all my cash on badges and an autographed LP (sic) of 'Fegmaniax'.

Shirt: Robyn was wearing a sensible psychedelic shirt, not one of those unpleasing polka dot things.

But the minuses outweighed the pluses for me: no Syd, no Bob Dylan or Beatles covers: I think that this is the first gig I have ever seen where Robyn hasn't performed at least one by Syd and one by Bobby. And it's Syd's 65th birthday month too!

No Kimberley (unlike Cambridge), and, worse than that, no Jake and Tim. I wrote to Brian H. a few days ago to say that none of the R.E.M. TV appearances that I have seen gave me any confidence that Peter would be an adequate substitute for Kimberley, and regrettably that was correct. He radiates good vibes but sticks much more to standard rhythm guitar than Kim ever does.

No "Airscape"; No "Heaven"; no "Old Brown Shoe"; no "52 Stations"; no "Sleeping With Your Devil Mask"; no "Oceanside"; no "Birds In Perspex" - all of these have been the high spot of one gig or another at some time. Instead he played that dreary song with a tune that is nicked from Bruce Springsteen and that awful 'Briggs' thing with an introduction that seemed to go on for ever; for me, it is beginning to bring back dreadful memories of "Gene Hackman" being played at every single sodding performance.

A nerd on bass who didn't like Eric Idle films (I was the one yelling " I video'd 'Nuns On The Run' ") if anyone recorded the show.

The gig was lifted towards the end with a very fair encore of 'Eight Miles High' marred by a lousy bass part from a musician who confessed that he'd never played it before. Whaaattt? Room for a version of that David Lodge parlour game for English lecturers who have to confess that they've never read 'Moby Dick', or 'Wuthering Heights', or 'Ulysses' (the winner wins the game but loses his or her job).

My confession: I pretended to a friend recently that I couldn't remember whether I had ever played 'Free Bird', but I suspect I would have recalled the incident if it had ever happened. 'Born to be wild' yes, loads of times (though not as often as I've played 'Gloria'), 'Light My Fire' yes, 'Mystery Train' yes, 'I Saw Her Standing There' yes, 'Eight Miles High' yes, 'Gigolo Aunt' yes, 'Free Bird' probably no.

On the way out I said to the vendor chappie: "I stopped listening to the new stuff after 'Star For Bram' ". "What about 'Luxor' "? asked a bloke called Nick whom I last saw riding in a car up to Oxford for a Soft Boys show. "Well I got it free at the 50th birthday show - it's OK" I replied, but I wouldn't have bought it I thought to myself.

- Mike

n.p. 'Madonna of the Wasps' from the Kershaw Sessions.

PS I spotted a brilliant photo opportunity of taking the bar directly complete with glass reflections of Robyn, Peter and Morris. However I didn't have my camera, for reasons too tedious to explain, so I borrowed one from the bloke standing in front of me. If he is reading this: Did they come out? Or did the flash ruin them?

PPS If you want to know the best post-Egyptians show I ever saw, it was with Tim, Jake, Patch Hannan and Kimberley at the Fleece in 2000, with Morris guesting on some numbers.

PPPS There were a a few golden moments in the Soft Boys tours - notably 'Astronomy Domine' in Oxford, a virulent 'Destroy' for George Bush in Dorset (I think), one or two great interpretations of 'Insanely Jealous' and 'Underwater Moonlight', plus 'Strings' falling delightfully apart in Dorset. But too much of it was like another disappointing tour by the Incredible String Band (without Williamson, for heaven's sake) or the Long Ryders (without their youthful enthusiasm, apparently).

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