Robyn Hitchcock, Live At The Iron Horse, Northampton, MA March 22, 2016 | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, November 18th, 2019  

Robyn Hitchcock

Robyn Hitchcock, Live At The Iron Horse, Northampton, MA March 22, 2016,

Apr 08, 2016 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

This evening Mr. Hitchcock played not a single one of my (many) favorite songs of his. It did not matter in the slightest. The gig was excellent. Possibly even because of this, in that the way the set developed and unfolded kept one in a constant state of wonder and appreciation. The man has so many songs, letting him reintroduce you to those you may have forgotten was a real treat. For the record, shows the previous gig in Delaware having contained three of my favorites"52 Stations," "Madonna of the Wasps," and "San Francisco Patrol." But I wouldn't have changed a thing about tonight's show.

Hitchcock strolls onstage at the very close to full 250 capacity Iron Horse venue shortly after 8 PM wearing a black shirt with medium-size polka dots (this is significant, wait...), picks up his acoustic, and opens with "Surgery" followed by "Vibrating," "Two songs there celebrating the joy and disgust of pure being," he informs us before launching into the first of many very enjoyable monologues on, well, all sorts of funny, poignant, and always interesting subjects. The ever-creative flow apparent in every word issuing from his mouth. And this intimate setting draws one into the lyrics much further than on record as well, giving a whole new appreciation to them. But back to the banter, which was top-notch all evening. This first segment reflectsfor a good few minuteson how we humans will be 'looked back on by the I-things as a vital evolutionary step.' Then a very moving rendition of "Ghost Ship." It should be noted that Hitchcock's voice is in great shape and his guitar playing very fluid, as befitting the songs. The chord changes are so seamless, it's a delight to notice that you're not noticing. "Luminous Rose" is introduced with mention of the Reagan era, getting many laughs at his comparative observation "how doomed we felt then."

"I'm Only You" is preceded by detailed, referential, instructions to the sound man. Hitchcock speaks of the Iron Horse's coffee mugs having stayed the same over the years and it's easy to see that he's not one of those performers where it's not just another gig. There's care involved and Robyn remembers the details of what make each place and concert special. This is especially apparent in two songs time when he dedicates "1974" to the promoter Jim Neill, who once, 20 years ago, mentioned he liked the song. In between is "Aquarium," a request posted on Facebook that day. Introducing it he says how the requester will know who they are "unless they are a Leo and feel the need now to have everybody know it is them." Much laughter and not the only astrological mention we'll get all evening. At one point in a digression he says he thinks that Allen Ginsberg was a Libra and later declares himself to be a Pisces.

"I don't know how much you use voodoo..." heralds "Mexican God," then "Sometimes a Blonde," and a hilarious interlude where putting his capo on a high fret of the guitar somehow turns very sexual with added auto-asphyxiation in preparation for a rocking version of "Be Still." A very classic Hitchcock new song follows, "Mad Shelley's Letterbox," then Emma Swift picks up a guitar to join him for "Trams of Old London." Their 2015 Record Store Day 7-inch "Follow Your Money" is up next, with lovely harmonies between the two, especially when Swift goes high. Last song of the set, still with Swift onstage, is "Linctus House" featuring a great call and refrain.

And remember his shirt with the medium polka dots? Well, strolling back on for the encore, he has changed his topto one with smaller dots. And it's into "My Wife & My Dead Wife." He has a miniature model of an old London bus and we hear about his fascination with them and also about his dad, whose name was Raymond, and something about The Beatles' "Love Me Do" by way of introducing another lovely new one"Raymond & The Wires." Swift joining him again for more great vocal interplay on Dylan's "Just Like a Woman." "I trust you all bought a copy of the Blonde On Blonde remaster the day it came out. I've bought one copy every day since." And the two ending on a great version of "Queen Elvis."

Even Hitchcock himself would comment on the gargantuan size of his oeuvre, observing before "Linctus House" that the issue with having so many songs is that the set could go on forever and so he was going to have to call it night soon. And it's a strong testament to Hitchcock's talent how he's able to draw you into each one, whether it's new, a cover, much loved, or something somehow overlooked. Tonight ranged through all of these with pleasure.  


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