Robyn Hitchcock... Gigography

Grant Lee Hitchcock Grant Lee Phillips and Robyn Hitchcock
Concert appearance: Thu., 22 June 2000

Sweetwater
Mill Valley, California US

Set list:

Cynthia Mask
Squint (Grant Lee Phillips)
Queen Elvis
Heavenly (Grant Lee Phillips)
I Feel Beautiful
Lonesome Serenade (Grant Lee Phillips)
I Saw Nick Drake
Mockingbirds (Grant Lee Phillips)
Gene Hackman
St. Expedite (Grant Lee Phillips)
Trams of Old London
Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash) >
Ring of Fire (Carter/Kilgore)
Honey, Don't Think (Grant Lee Phillips)
Antwoman
Fuzzy (Grant Lee Phillips)
Happiness (Grant Lee Phillips)
Rockstool (improv)
Flavour of Night
Harper Valley P.T.A. (Jeannie C. Riley) (improv)
Harper Valley P.T.A. (Jeannie C. Riley) (in G) (improv)>
Daydream
Don't Look Down
Tangled Up In Blue (Bob Dylan)
All I Have To Do Is Dream (Everly Brothers)
Flamin' Shoe
Mighty Joe Moon (Grant Lee Phillips)
Clean Steve
Across the Universe (The Beatles) [Grant on piano]
Encore: Sound & Vision (David Bowie) >
Encore: Kung Fu Fighting (Carl Douglas)
Encore: I've Got a Feeling (The Beatles) >
Encore: Tracks of My Tears (Smokey Robinson)


Live Review By Charles Redell

Before every show I review, thereís this moment of abject fear. I stand
there in the club thinking that thereís no way Iíll have anything to say. I
picture myself sitting for hours, staring at my screen, while millions of
you sit, waiting to know how the show really was. But tonite I knew would
be different. Thereís isnít a possibility that a show by Robyn Hitchcock
and Grant Lee Phillips could leave me blank. Thereís too much energy in
their presence, too much pathos in their songs, and most importantly of
all, they are consummate entertainers unable to leave an audience wowed.
Something tonite onstage at the Crocodile would put my brain in gear and
get the words flowing.

Now, here I am at the opposite end of the spectrum. My mind is awash with
images and words while my fingers race along the keyboard unable to keep
up. There is so much to process and so much to keep up with that I feel
overloaded with things to tell you. I know: Every writer should have such
problems.

How did this happen? Two men got up on stage with a sublime sense for
entertaining and a remarkable talent for keeping audiences engaged and
tried, while playing perfectly with each other, to always outdo one another
too. They put on a show made up of their absolutely wonderful songs,
hilarious interludes between those songs, and a tribute to the pop music
history that allows them to exist as the entertainers they are today.

They have a sensibility about that popular music that not only allows them
to write beautiful songs and lyrics, but also to write silly or cheesy
songs that knock you on the floor while they leave you laughing in the
aisles. Instead of being turned off by the inherent cheese of a lyric like:
"I watered the tomatoes and I think of you/no oneís ever watered me the way
you do/Ö" one knows Hitchcock means what he sings, and the image is the
only one he had available at the time. True popular music, good popular
music, as an art, is not forced or contrived. Rather, itís meant to
entertain and to bring an audience into a performerís life for a night.
Grant Lee and Robyn are masters at this.

Although very similar in style (both play acoustic guitars and both write
lyrics thatíll kill you with their beautiful simplicity), they are
different enough so as to be perfectly complementary. For each song, one
was able to concentrate on either singing or playing his guitar while the
other did the opposite. Now this is not intended to mean that either is not
fully capable of doing both at the same time. They both are. But because
these two men are so completely on the same page musically, one is able to
take over front man duties (singing) and the other gets to be the hands
(playing the guitar) on each song. The result, if you close your eyes, is
hearing a beautiful singer play his guitar as if it were a physical
extension of himself.

Of course, each song was not just sung by one or the other. They took full
of advantage of their wide talents by harmonizing their familiar songs in
new ways too. Grant Leeís voice is high and melodic. Robynís is much closer
to a baritone. Full and rich, he can get down to the notes that I think
Grant would like to hit, but is just not built to. Together they create two
completely different tones that, through hard work on the part of their
producers, mix and play together in a quite melodic and, at times, haunting
way.

Anyone who has ever seen Robyn Hitchcock or Grant Lee Phillips play solo or
with one of their bands knows that they are first and foremost
entertainers. This is why I first fell in love with Grant Lee Buffalo
(Grantís most recent band). Coming from a theatre background, I was
enamored that first time because it was so much more than a rock show. It
was an event, a chance to entertain an audience for hours and a chance for
him to shine. Apparently the same is true for Robyn Hitchcock (before
tonite I had never seen him play).

Every song warrants a story, every story, a joke. Whether they are playing
a song or killing time while they tune up or fix a broken string, the show
never stops for either of them. There is always something going on for the
audience to watch. There are stories and jokes, magic tricks and one liners
galore. Grant showed us a few of the ways he can play his hair, and Robyn
talked about any little thing that occurred to him as soon as it did.

But beyond the stories and the standard songs of theirs that they both
played, we were also treated to an informal tribute to pop music. Covers
abounded. Not the least of which were one of "Are You Experienced" by Jimi
Hendrix, and one of "A Day in the Life" from Sgt. Pepperís. The Jimi cover
fully exemplified everything a cover of one of his songs should be. It was
totally new and different while fun for the performers and audience alike
because of that difference. Grant Lee banged on the highest notes of the
piano while Robyn danced his "trippy dance" around the stage (not the only
time we saw it tonite either). Arms waving and hips swaying he stayed
completely true to the lyrics while saturating them with their full meaning
and feeling through a total clarity of voice that Jimi never had. A Day in
the Life (which was supposed to be a show closer but the crowd wouldnít let
them leave after only three encores) was pure fun. They took a song we all
know and sang it the way we all do. They did the Bass fills with their
voices and missed the high notes the same way that everyone but the Beatles
do. More than a cover, it was an homage to a great song that has permeated
our culture and given them the chance to be what they are.

Iím still not out of words (if you can believe that after the tome above).
But I know a review has to end some time before the readerís eyes fall out
of their head. But, like the show, there doesnít seem to be a clean way to
end this. Itís so much fun to write about two people having so much fun
that I just want it to go on and on and on. More moments keep popping to
mind that I should tell you about and I keep looking back trying to find
ways to add them in. But there is no way to now. Youíll just have to take
it from me that there is always more to say when one talks of either of
these men. Just as there is always more for them to say and do too. This is
exactly what makes writing about them and seeing them such an honored
pleasure.

©Copyright 2000 - Charles Redell


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