Robyn Hitchcock's ROCK ARMADA
Concert appearance: Fri., 19 Nov. 1999
Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, California US
The Devil's Coachman
The Cheese Alarm
Jewels for Sophia
No, I Don't Remember Guildford
Madonna of the Wasps
Queen of Eyes
Sleeping with Your Devil Mask
You and Oblivion
The Philosophers Stone
I Feel Beautiful
Sinister But She Was Happy
Bip Bop (Dog & Onion)
I took no notes but drank only one beer (BTW, MG, in my avoidance of drink I
*completely* forgot that I owe you a couple! Next lunch on me). Somewhat
disapointed by the set list--only one Soft Boys tune, seemingly very little
in the way of new stuff and I don't recall hearing a single cover. That's
where the disapointment ends.
This show had it all...a lengthy acoustic show with plenty of laughs between
songs, and a lengthy rock show with drums a-bashin' and guitars a-wailin'.
A tremendously appreciative crowd (something like 22 of whom were list
members). At least three encores, one of which included a wonderful
improvised spoken word/jazz type piece featuring all the musicians and
incorporating at least two new songs (would make a great live album side).
Two hours from start to finish. And Kimberley, who's very presence ignited
the room. I saw KR twice with Katrina and he was always fun to watch but
last night was priceless. He's got that mop top going now, which combined
with his rock-pose faces made him look like a cross between Dana Carvey
("choppin' broccoli") and Barrington Womble (better known as Barry Wom,
drummer for the Rutles), with a dash of Dirk McQuickly. Definitely two
parts Rutles & one part Carvey. Watching him was like staring at the cover
of "A Hard Day's Rut"
Devil Mask (Wayne & Garth style head bopping during each chorus)
The Stoned Prophet (new song?)
QUEEN OF EYES (blissfully loud!)
Elizabeth Jade (I saw somebody pogoing)
Aquarium (very nice)
QE (laugh of the night: "Getting Blowjobs from the press/mmmmMMMMMMM!")
...and the aforementioned improvised piece (including a structured song
about an encyclopedia and a structured ending weaturing the words "Bip
Bop"--NOT the McCartney tune)
Looking forward to reading a full report from someone who took notes.
My apologies if hundreds of people have already posted about this since the last
digest, but I've seen nothing yet so I feel moved to speak up.
I'm not going to say too much about the music - it's mainly been said before,
(THANKS to everyone who posted reports of the tour so far!) and I've no doubt
somebody else will post a setlist. Robyn is in rockin' form -- an awesome show!
I can (...sort of) understand why some of these wonderfully crazy folks are
flying around the country to catch multiple shows. Not that I'd do anything like
I must admit that I was not as impressed by Departure Lounge as some others. To
my ear the emphasis was on the "Lounge" - nice enough, but nothing to really
grab my attention. Perhaps if they'd stood up to play it might have injected a
little energy into the music - but then maybe that wasn't the idea. Anyway, I
didn't decide to buy the album.
Robyn started the show on solo acoustic, as previously reported (white shirt &
flowered pants again, for those of you keeping score at home). Lots of good
"banter" - all of it clearly off the cuff (in earlier years folks complained
that most of his stories were the same from show to show - and lacked that
spontaneous energy - this is certainly no longer the case.)
As the band slowly built (the Jonathan Demme influence?) so did the energy
level. Finally: Robyn as he *should* be heard. YESSS! (I got such flack on this
list some years ago (no, don't start again) for admitting that I *love* Perspex
Island and I'm kinda "hmm" about Eye (the fave of many), but you see, I first
knew Robyn as a Soft Boy, and to my mind it is always in the context of a band
that he shines brightest. Hopefully after this tour, one or two more people
might agree with me.
About two thirds of the way through the show, Robyn started to have guitar
trouble. I'm not sure whether part of it was amp related, as he claimed, but
certainly a large factor was the little dangley cord which hang from the mic
which clipped to the soundhole of his acoustic (a big old Guild this time, for
the gear-heads among you). Unfortunately, Robyn kept stepping on this cord and
disconnecting the mic. He was somehow unable to figure out that he was doing
this, despite Jeme's frantic gesticulations from the front row.
He eventually switched to Tim's guitar for a while, but (as we now know, 'coz
Eddie swiped the setlist) he changed the intended song selection quite a bit.
During all the mucking about with guitars several people called out "tell us a
story Robyn" and - partly to make up for the disrupted set, I think - he
proceeded to do just that! I can't even begin to explain the story - among other
things, it involved a three-legged dog, multiple dimensions, an evil talking
onion and athletes coming up through plugholes... the most fun part was Robyn
directing the (obviously perplexed) band to provide sound effects. Robyn: "And
as the dog went up the stairs it sounded like THIS!"
Kimberley was every bit as Muppett-like as advertised. Much to the surprise of
Jeme and I, however, both our SO's rated poor Kimbo as "unattractive" and "in
need of a new hairstyle". Nevertheless, he seemed to be having more fun than
just about anyone onstage and kept exchanging little cheeky looks with both the
audience other performers. Strangely, I don't think his guitar was going through
the main PA - I guess they thought he was loud enough already! Incidentally, the
old E-bow-in-mouth-during-solo trick was again in evidence.
All through the SF show, Robyn kept stepping on his guitar cables, often
resulting in the acoustic pickup being pulled out. This lead to a running
joke about "reinsertion" (Jesus was ressurected, redeemed, etc., but he was
never reinserted.) When he did the last song of the first encore, he stepped
on the cord to his guitar, switched to Tim's guitar and had similar
problems. So he picked up his harmonica and told the band he'd go it alone
(w/o guitar). So rather than do a song, he when into one of his stories
about a dog going through a door, running into its otherself, its shadow
turning into a cat, an evil onion a bottle of Aqua Velva (he thought it was
Aqua Velva, he eye sight is getting worse and he couldn't read the label).
Whenever he needed a sound effect, he would point to someone in the band and
they would provide a little rift.
Incorporated into the story was some improv numbers including "Pouring
Through the Encyclopedia", a jazz/blues number "Bip Bop", a short solo by
everyone in the band (including Tim on shakers) and a great Jimmy Stewart
impersonation. All lasting for about 12 minutes.
One other note about the show that I've never seen at a show before, when
Robyn came back for a second encore, more of the audience responded with a
massive "Thank You." As my friend who saw/heard Robyn for the first time
said, "What a polite audience!"
_Well, you have all heard about the show, but here are a few of my
-departure lounge is by far the best openning act I've seen for Robyn
-I thought the drummer was one of the best and most musical I've seen in
quite a while. His timing was impeccable- I know, that's his job, but most
aren't that good.
-the bassist was perfectly locked to the drummer, though he didn't
contribute much harmonically to the music
-when Kimberl(e)y played a foul note Russ and I got a big kick out of him
going around again and playing the same thing with the bad note again.
Guitarist's law #3: If you play a wrong note, you must play that note again
to assure your audience of your intention and your genius. (Rule #1: never
play a solo at 10 if your amp goes all the way up to 11. Rule #2: Be
crappy, but be convincing.)
-this is the hardest I've heard Robyn "rock"
-a few sound errors occurred, with the band distorting. There was constant
feedback through a couple of tunes. That said, it is very difficult to do
live sound when the band is loud and somebody insists on playing an
-Robyn seemed like he was having a good time and so did everybody else.
-I think that Robyn likes touring with Tim because besides Bill Gates, who
else has dependably worse hair than Robyn.
-Tim's hair looked almost exactly like a Robyn drawing of a tomato top.
-I couldn't believe how many people were chatting away while Departure
Lounge was playing.
-I thought Kim's hair looked great.
-I do think that Tim pales somewhat next to Robyn, Kim, and the drummer in
the band situation.
-I imagined DP Gumby announcing the band:
"Theese eeeze a rilleee beeg rohk shough, feechurin:
Teem Kueegan oon LUEAD GEETAH
Robeen Eeechcoowk oon LUEAD GEETAH
Kimbuhlee Rooo oon LUEAD GEETAH.
Poot yore 'ands t'gethoh fo roobin eechkowk's rook ahmodda, thooink
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