Robyn Hitchcock with Minus 5 Sean Nelson
Concert appearance: Fri., 3 Mar. 2006
Doug Fir Lounge
Portland, Oregon US
Visions of Johanna (Bob Dylan)
Never Stop Bleeding
The Speed of Things
Long, Long, Long (The Beatles)
If You Were A Priest
Madonna of the Wasps
Adventure Rocket Ship
Flesh Number One (Beatle Dennis)
Sally Was A Legend
Driving Aloud (Radio Storm)
Cigarettes, Coffee and Booze (Minus 5)
Beware of Darkness (George Harrison)
Eight Miles High (Byrds)
I Wanna Destroy You
Listening to the Higsons
recording archived at http://www.archive.org/details/rhitchcock2006-03-03.lcb.shnf
So this was my 9th time seeing Robyn - a paltry number compared with folks who've been going to Robyn shows since the mid-80's, some of whom were with me at the show. Nevertheless, I've seen more loud shirts and ugly trousers than you can shake a stick at. Last night's show was a little more sartorially tame - a black-and-white polka-dotted shirt and purple trousers. It was Robyn's 53rd birthday, and he was feelin' the love, in his British kind of way. He was more cheerful and mellow than I've ever seen him, though he was sort of taken-aback when the audience started singing "Happy Birthday" to him. "Aw, let 'em sing," said, Scott McCaughey, whose ubiquitous Minus 5 was serving as Robyn's back-up band.
The show started with Robyn playing solo acoustic, unfortunately somewhat drowned out by noisy talkers in the audience. (Typical.) I'd been going around humming "The Speed of Things" (off Robyn's 1994 album "Moss Elixir") for a few days previously, and was hoping Robyn might play it, but with a nearly 30-year back catalogue, I thought this was unlikely. And what do you know - he played it! I love moments like that. He dedicated the song to "his father's bones," and explained that he tends to get morbid on his birthday.
Following the acoustic set, Robyn was joined by Scott, Peter, and co., as well as Harvey Danger's Sean Nelson singing back-up harmonies, and the show kicked into high gear. The setlist was terrific, ranging from Robyn's old band the Soft Boys to some new, unreleased songs which, unlike much of Robyn's recent output, actually weren't half bad. He also did several covers - a couple of George Harrison songs, Dylan's "Visions of Johanna," and the Byrds' "Eight Miles High." A number of songs were from "Moss Elixir" and 1988's "Element of Light" - maybe they're favorites of his? Anyway, it was great to hear oldies but goodies like "If You Were a Priest" and "Beautiful Queen" - the latter dedicated to "Colin and Carson Meloy, who just had their baby." (Huzzah!) I was also thrilled to hear "Madonna of the Wasps," "Flesh Number One," "Acid Bird," "Chinese Bones," and especially "Driving Aloud (Radio Storm)." I decided that the sound of Peter Buck's Rickenbacker is the most beautiful sound in the world. I think it could cure lepers or raise people from the dead.
As usual, Robyn's surreal comments were out in force. At the encore, someone brought out a big cluster of green and purple balloons. "Oh, a bunch of dark alien eggs," said Robyn, as Peter Buck tied them to his guitar strap. He explained that "Flesh Number One" and "Alright, Yeah" were "spiritual leveling songs" - "They leave you as they found you, but subtly different - you'll find that your emotional problems are vacuumed away." He also dedicated the Soft Boys' "I Wanna Destroy You" to Karl Rove. "The man's a Sagittarius!" he said in horror, "like Jim Morrison. If I had any faith in humanity, I'd lose it." But the song - a glorious anthem of spite and revenge - ended the show on a high note, and I went away very happy indeed.
This was the best Robyn show I've seen since the Soft Boys' reunion in 2001. My love for Robyn - which had been faltering after a series of lackluster solo albums over the past few years - has been restored. Yay Robyn, and happy birthday!
Emma Blowgun's blog
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