Robyn Hitchcock... Gigography

The Soft Boys
Concert appearance: Mon., 4 Nov. 2002

House of Blues
West Hollywood, California US

Set list:

Hear My Brane
Kingdom of Love
Queen of Eyes
Mr. Kennedy
My Mind is Connectedů
Insanely Jealous
Disconnection of the Ruling Class
Chinese Bones
When I Was a Kid
Unprotected Love
Pulse of My Heart
Underwater Moonlight
Encore: Narcissus
Encore: (I Want To Be An) Anglepoise Lamp "Seven Winged Bat" version
Encore: I Wanna Destroy You
Encore: Man with the Lightbulb Head
Encore: Stuck Inside of Mobile With Memphis Blues Again (Bob Dylan)
Encore: If You Know Time
Encore: Om

From Eb:
Saw the Soft Boys show at Hollywood's House of Blues, last night....

...I thought the lads performed the songs very well with plenty of spark, except for "Queen of Eyes." Seems like this one let me down in the previous Knitting Factory concert, too. Just doesn't seem wound tight enough in the current reading...not enough whirling momentum to attain that "Perfect Pop Song" status. I was also disappointed not to hear "Vegetable Man" as an encore, which was doubly frustrating because the song was listed on the sound guy's set list!

...I can't provide a SBs setlist, but I'm sure someone else will. Three songs from Side 3 ("Narcissus," "Om," "Disconnection"), five (?) from Nextdoorland (I liked "Unprotected Love" the best), five (?) from Underwater Moonlight. "Chinese Bones." "When I Was a Kid." One song was billed as "new." "Stuck Inside of Mobile" was amongst the encores. Nothing from A Can of Bees, I don't think? Especially enjoyed "The Man With a Lightbulb Head," though I can't even remember which album contains this at the moment. (I'll look it up...don't bother telling me.)

...Hitchcock wore an unusually stylish, burnt-orange-print shirt for most of the show, but before the encore, he switched to a more typical black-with-white-polka-dots motif.

A grungified Midge Ure opened with an acoustic set, looking more like a member of the Minutemen than Ultravox. It was...OK. Note to Ure: Trying to play "Vienna" as a solo acoustic tune Later, someone in the crowd mistook Jason Thornton for a post-performance Ure, which delighted JT no end.

The notorious "Lawndart" and I talked to Matthew Seligman for awhile upstairs, after the show. That was fun. We were up on the private third floor -- wow, the decor of the bar up there is absolutely gorgeous...part Camelot, part King Tut -- but no notable namedrop-faces were around. Matthew claimed that the band Free was his impetus for taking up the bass, which I thought was an interesting revelation. Lawndart and Seligman were bonding over shared hard-rock interests, and I was relieved that Lawndart found a more receptive audience than me. ;) Matthew is thrilled about his upcoming Bass Player feature, btw.

Bought Side 3 at the show...haven't played it yet. I was disappointed Robyn Sings wasn't on sale, because I had been planning to buy that too. Neither was Underwater Moonlight, for that matter...c'mon boys, push those units!

from Rex: expand on what we have so far, not really in order:

Hear My Brane
Queen of Eyes
Kingdom of Love
Mr. Kennedy
My Mind is Connected...
Pulse of My Heart
When I Was a Kid
Disconnection of the Ruling Class
Unprotected Love
Chinese Bones
Anglepoise/Severed Winged Bat
Man with the Lightbulb Head
Insanely Jealous
I Wanna Destroy You
Underwater Moonlight
? (One of the above songs)
If You Know Time
Memphis Blues Again
Om (the actual closer)

Thank GOD it was as good as it was because it was really expensive and I was not feeling well at all. Got to meet a few folks from the list which was very cool (hello, all!), managed to get a hot tea at the bar, and perched my ass on a stool to watch the show as my ability to stand was fading fast. Good view and nice sound balance, so it worked out fine. Eventually felt decent enough to graduate to beer.

Midge Ure: not sure which of the Minutemen Eb was referring to (Hurley?); I was thinking he looked more like Moby. Anyhow, he's got one of those voices we just don't produce in America-- clean but with almost too much body for its own good-- and a little goes a long way. A fairly one-note perfomance but okay as these things go. "Do They Know It's Christmas" was just weird, though. Couldn't tell if it's meant to be tongue-in-cheek at this stage of the game or not.

Soft Boys: this was the first time I'd seen the band as a whole. A very different experience from Robyn solo OR with the Egyptians. Robyn and Kimberly clearly have a great time playing off each other. Robyn's playing was a whole different game from what I've seen before. Almost all lead figures or partial chord voicings way up the neck-- rarely even a full barre chord and almost never any open chords as in his acoustic playing.

Kimberly was really having fun and just so endearing and fun to watch, bouncing around like a young Beatle (and with the right haircut), shaking his Stratocaster around for sustain, etc. In a very short time- especially after hearing those ringing and slashing bits on ther older songs reproduced with so much vigor- I pretty much reached the conclusion that no Robyn-in-a-band scenario would ever seem complete without Kimberly again.

Quick notes/observations on the songs:

-"Queen of Eyes" I agree this has gotten a bit perfunctory, although the dedication to Arthur Lee kind of gave it an initial charge last night.

-"Strings": Somebody mentioned Matthew twiddling his tuning pegs to get those weird sounds on "My Mind"... well, he does it on "Strings", too: double duty on the E and G pegs, in fact. The song in its live version has gone from its kind of shambling, unsettled feel on the record to something downright stomping and menacing.

-"Chinese Bones": Kimberly replaces Peter Buck's redundant Byrdsism with something a little Stonesier, and those hinky-sounding synth-chimes have become big shimmering tremelo'ed harmonics. Very nice. I did miss some of the original bass figures, but Matthew played around with it more than he had that morning on KCRW. Missed opportunity for some nice tangled-up dual guitar at the end, but maybe they figure they'd better not push it.

-"Mr. Kennedy": Matthew got more actively involved in the raveup at the end to really interesting effect-- a whole new chord sequence was starting emerge. Nice.

-"Man with the Lightbulb Head": Has anyone mentioned that Kimberly plays the vocal role of "Junior" on this song? Very entertaining. RH & KR also surprisingly faithfully reproduce the tossed-off sounding out-of-key guitar parts from the end of the recording.

-""If You Know Time": I really like this one. More straight-up power-pop than most SB's songs, new or old, but that's fine; it sits nicely next to "Destroy You". Tabbers take note: looks like Robyn tunes his high E string down to match the B on this one. Robyn alluded to this performance as an attempt to record it and as such spent a little time getting his delay/vibrato pedal to the right speed; sounded like a good take to me.

"Unprotected Love": This came right after "When I Was a Kid" and was described as "the opposite song". (The between-song patter was kinda sparse in general. Possibly because tape was rolling?)

"Underwater Moonlight": Great spoken word bit with dramatic accents from the whole band, especially Kimberly (who really can apparently play just about anything)... Robyn describes descending deeper and deeper, tossing in LA area codes at certain depths-- "Forty fathoms-- Area 323!" etc. He then descended to 818 (the Valley) and ended up at "Area Code 310" where he described sunken cars full of bloated bodies on the Santa Monica freeway. The 626 (Pasadena) and 213 (downtown-ish) area codes somehow escaped the wrath of Robyn's deluge. Anyhow, it was great-- unlike QOE, this old chestnut lives and breathes and smacks ya around some.

"Memphis Blues Again"- someone pegged this as "too long" as a cover, but I would say more "too unbroken"... verse after verse of just vocal and one guitar break for KR at the end. Not bad and even kind of sweet, but the Boys don't quite own it.

"Om": Yup, it's the poppy flipside to "Strings". Made a pretty good closer.

So, they taped it. Seems like the live record may come at least partially from this tour after all...

From The Los Angeles Times
November 6, 2002


Soft Boys prove they're revived and kicking

The band mixes new and old tunes, plus guitar work as distinctive as its lyrics.

By Natalie Nichols, Special to The Times

Last year, English cult-pop figure Robyn Hitchcock and his early band the Soft Boys delighted fans and impressed critics with a reunion tour. This year the players released a fine new album, "Nextdoorland," and during the group's performance Monday at the House of Blues, the material proved as contemporary as anything by all these young "rock revival" acts.

In a 90-minute set, Hitchcock and guitarist Kimberley Rew, bassist Matthew Seligman and drummer Morris Windsor mixed new tunes with selections from their seminal 1980 collection "Underwater Moonlight" and songs by Love and Bob Dylan.

Singer-songwriter Hitchcock has a reputation for eccentricity, fueled mainly by his use of freaky metaphors involving such un-pop things as insects, bones and aquatic life to explore ordinary emotional situations such as unrequited love and suburban childhood drama. But on Monday his guitar work, while perhaps equally quirky, was as distinctive as his lyrical imagery.

On such new tunes as "Mr. Kennedy" and older favorites such as "Insanely Jealous," he and Rew engaged in electrifying give-and-take, often spinning into a warped jam-band sprawl while contrasting guttural, Stones-esque blues-rock licks with jangling, angular riffs reminiscent of Wire or Television.

And, yes, they played the seminal antiwar song "I Wanna Destroy You" (dedicated to Bush and Co., just like last year), but by then the band had proved it was capable of much more than revisiting the old days with enthusiasm and panache.

If you have an addition or correction, please send an e-mail message about it to Bayard Catron.

If you ever see an error message or a bad link, please send an e-mail message about that to John Hedges.

Back to Query Page
Back to Main Page