Robyn Hitchcock's ROCK ARMADA
Concert appearance: Wed., 17 Nov. 1999
Portland, Oregon US
Two full hours of non-stop Rock Armada.
The Devil's Coachman
De Chirico Street add Tim
I Saw Nick Drake add Jake
The Cheese Alarm add Lindsay and Kimberley
No, I Don't Remember Guildford
Sinister But She Was Happy everyone
Madonna of the Wasps
Queen of Eyes
Sleeping with Your Devil Mask
Kingdom of Love first encore: Robyn and Kimbo
You and Oblivion
The Philosophers Stone
Birds in Perspex
Adoration of the City
Gene Hackman second encore - just Robyn
Elizabeth Jade everyone
Robyn's show held with tradition on this tour, and wowed all in
attendence. If the audience's fervor did not, as Eddie
prognosticated, reach Beatlemania-esque heights, our own
appreciation was every bit as heartfelt.
But I have put the hoist in front of my petard, so to speak. The
Departure Lounge were excellent, excellent to the extent that I
bought two copies of their album, to make sure that no one who
would otherwise suffer for want of one could, uh, get their hot
little mits on a copy. Tim mentioned the last time he and Robyn
played in Portland, two years earlier, and how someone had sent
him a tape of his performance at that show. He said that the
applause for that show had been louder than he had, and that
listening to that tape always made him feel good.
Then Robyn came on, and did Mexican God, a diptych from Queen
Elvis, and Insect Mother. He seemed happy, and at ease, and he
took the opportunity of having the stage to himself to digress
gloriously. He talked about how Pope Pious VI had ordered Las
Vegas built by religious gangsters in 1147 (due to an (repeatedly
mispronounced) enormous budgetry surplus), and how nuns and monks
would have fun Fridays where they'd let a few monks into the
convent and they'd all boogie. He carried on a conversation with
an imaginary assistant director who'd interject periodically to
correct his monologues. It was fun, and I laughed loud and long.
But there was a point to it, too. There were 3 digital video
cameras set up at various locations in the venue for the purpose
of filming some kind of concert video, as Eddie reports.
Then the band started to trickle in. Tim and Robyn riffed on
chips and Shirley Bassey. The bassist, Jake, came in for I Saw
Nick Drake. As their numbers swelled, Robyn's loquacity dimished
-- it seems a lesson well learned from his Egyptians days, when
Morris and Andy never knew when to be ready for the next song.
Shortly, Kimberley and Lindsey came on. I really like Lindsey's
drum kit -- it's small-ish, but it's got lots of different pads
and very little redundancy. Sometimes you see these kits that
have a wall of snares, but don't do anything for you in terms of
variety. He sometimes seemed to be playing 3 instruments at
once, both from the sounds he was making, and just from looking
Anyway, there were Kimberley and Lindsey (neither one a woman,
interestingly) taking the stage, and the mob of them proceeded to
spin the Cheese Alarm to end all Cheese Alarms. Robyn's had
something of a stock intro to this song, Eddie tells me, a tale
of a mano-e-mano dairy dispute, a duel to the death over a pile
of curd. Last night, Robyn put this ever intensifying tale over
the instrumental intro to Cheese Alarm, and the effect was
electrifying. Kim's guitar flourishes punctuated the escalating
conflict perfectly, and both reached a crescendo at the same
time. In one song, it turned my idea of Robyn -- formulated
largely over 7 years of solo acoustic shows -- on its head, but
in a good way.
At this point, a couple of nice hippies (I talked to them after
the show) were dancing on the side aisle, but that was about it.
The Aladdin isn't a very dance friendly venue. There's this huge
moat between the audience and the stage, and if you want to
dance, you're as much on display as the performers, which can
make one rather self conscious. Viv and Jeme were making motions
of wanting to get up and move, but couldn't quite seem to
overcome their inertia. Finally, in the middle of Sinister But
Happy (for which, I might add, Kimberly's guitar filled in
admirably for Deni's violin), I couldn't hold it in any longer,
and I got up and started dancing. Robyn commented that we could
feel free to vibrate internally or lurch on the outside. That
opened the floodgates. Four or so more people came down, and two
songs later Viv and Jeme exploded out of their seats to the
opening notes of Queen of Eyes. There where a dozen and a half
people up front by the end of it, which is pretty impressive for
his following. Everyone seemed like a pretty good dancer, too.
Viv even did her cute little Viva Sea-Tac dance, but her heart
didn't seem to be in it.
The rest of the concert maintained an impressive energy the rest
of the way out, even in You & Oblivion where it manifested itself
as concentrated intensity. In the first encore, Eddie requested
Philosopher's Stone, which they obliged. That's a really good
song, but they put way too much delay on the vox. Still, I think
Star for Bram is going to be quite an album.
But until then, I've got the soundboard recording I made of the
show. It turned out fairly well, though the beginning of Devil
Mask is cut off because I got a feed from the output of the
recorder that they were using for the show, and the signal cuts
off when they switch tapes. The vox are also mixed awfully high,
too, but it's still pretty listenable. I'm most thankful to have
gotten the feed because it freed me to devote my whole attention
to the show, and to dance.
After the show ended, I zipped out of there with all possible
speed. My recorder was on a clear aisle that was a shortcut out,
so I scooped that up and found the merchandise table. I got two
departure lounge cds (ah! full circle!), and, what's this?
Cones! Two noble cones, standing stately amid a sea of
merchandise. I nabbed one. And Rare Jewels! The four song ep
that includes Nick Drake and Jesus & Me. It even had a copy of
the tour schedule pasted on the back. It was only 5 bucks, too!
I asked for a handful of the stuff, without even thinking whether
I had the finances to support my excess. 50 dollars. I had 2
twenties and 2 fives in my wallet. Hot damn! I noticed Tim
standing nearby and got him to sign one of my Departure Lounge
cds (his John Hancock looks like a spirograph drawing). Then
Eddie and I drove Carole to the bus station so that she could
make the trek to the Great American Music Hall, and Eddie crashed
at my place. I was proud to be a host for the noble pilgrim. --Michael W
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