The Soft Boys Up Arrow Hill
Concert appearance: Wed., 12 Dec. 2001
Notting Hill Arts Club
London, England UK
Radio4 club night -- setlist incomplete/inaccurate
Queen of Eyes
My Mind is Connected…
Kingdom of Love
Encore: I Wanna Destroy You
The gig was as good as expected the other night - NH Arts Centre a very
nice little venue, although with the bar area perhaps a little too divorced
from the gig area. Beer was frighteningly expensive, but suitably exotic -
beer from the four corners of the world at #3 a throw (in fact a 330ml
At about 8.30 we all went and stood by the stage and waited patiently for
the support band, Up Arrow Hill (or something like that) who, we'd been
reliably tipped off, would have Robyn as a guest. The band arrived, looking
like miniature versions of Echo & the Bunnymen or someone. They were
scousers (at least they had scouse accents, real or not) and played pretty
well, although without a great deal to hold the interest - very much style
over content I felt, looking rocknroll with their hats and badges and
attitudes, but lacking anything that would mark them out as particularly
different. That said, it's always good to see wide-eyed rocknroll attitude
and a handful of guitars.
Their set was extremely short, with the high point being the last song,
which, as promised featured Robyn as guest lead vocalist. The song was one
of his songs, too, although he claimed that he had only written it because
he was old enough to be able to, challenging the singer to have written it
without being old enough... The band launched into a very entertaining (and
a more rocking) version of This Could Be The Day.
There was an awfully long wait for the Soft Boys. Although they came
onstage straight away to plug in their guitars, tune them up while Morris
attached his cymbals, hi-hat and snare to the previous drummer's kit (note
to drummers: Morris has his hi-hat slack, with a mini tamborine clamped to
the main stem, using stick position to govern the sound). As soon as they
were set up they buggered off... Until, half-an-hour or even 45 minutes
later, Matthew turned up, looking rushed and (probably due to new
offspring) incredibly tired (though still about 16 years old).
The band began with QOE, unsurprisingly, although quite a fresh sounding
version, quickly followed by a slow version of Mind Is Connected (actually,
was it slow? We were stood so close to the band (there was no stage - the
monitors deliniated the "stage" area), that it perhaps warped our
perceptions. Certainly being so close (3 feet?) from the band made it a
different experience) and Kingdom of Love.
For me, the new songs stood out as being among the best - Om followed (I
think this was the one played at Evershot with White Light in the lyrics),
dedicated to George H and Sterling Morrison. Japanese Captain was next, as
far as I could make out about a captain who sails around unloved
(chorus/refrain "touch me baby/f**k me please") buying and selling lamps...
it's got a very funny spoken bit in the middle.
I started to lose track of the songs, but I think UM was next - a very
assured version as you'd expect with a frenzied middle bit with the usual
impro spoken bit, although today interspersed with Robyn playing that
volume down, hit strings, volume up and back down (this technique can be
heard quite a bit on Moss Elixir).
My favourite of the "new" new material followed around about this time,
according to Robyn the first SBs song in C for over 20 years (again I
didn't take notes, so the order may not be at all correct) - not sure of
the name, with the chorus of "looking for the Sheretay (god knows what this
is referring to, or how it's spelt - a quick search of the web found
nothing) a shay won't do". A slow, almost hypnotic though not droning song
with beautiful, wistful lyrics "I wish I could be 23 so I could waste
A great Old Pervert and then on (I think) to an untitled song written to a
brief - Robyn did a long introduction about how the Daisycutter had been
invented to enrich our lives and was a necessary invention (heavy on the
irony) and about how he had attempted to write a song in Gsharp that was
under 3 minutes long. Obviously, he had succeeded with a fantastic,
dissonant song that I reckon was closer to older material than the UM
stuff. I've said it before, I know, but bloody hell I can't wait for the
album - I can't emphasise how great the new songs are enough.
The set finished with Insanely Jealous - as good a version as any I've
heard (at this point I must say that standing right in front of Kimberley
is a recommended place to stand - he plays effortlessly, with such feeling
and energy you can feel it coming off him). Encores were I Wanna Destroy
You, blistering as it should be, followed by (the still half-written
sounding) Strings. An odd choice to finish on... I think it's about music
and reforming and the peculiar stardom Hitchcock enjoys (lyrics include the
line " I wish I was just paranoid"), but I must say it was my least
favourite of the set.
On the bus on the way home to Oxford, Chrissy, Jim and I were discussing,
amongst other things, whether it's actually quite sad to follow one
particular band/artist to virtually all their gigs... well, perhaps it is,
but you really can't argue with the Soft Boys... I have to Give It To them!
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