i hate the sound of guitars

an expat dc punk in massachusetts

i hate the sound of guitars header image 1

Robyn Hitchcock, 21 November 2008

24 Nov 2008 · No Comments

Friday’s performance was just the tonic for folks who’ve seen Robyn Hitchcock numerous times in the past. The setlist was primarily drawn from his magnificent first (mostly) acoustic album, 1984’s I Often Dream of Trains. He was accompanied by recent frequent accomplice Tim Keegan on guitar and vocals, and (former member of The Higsons) Terry Edwards on soprano sax, piano, and percussion. In addition to most of I Often Dream of Trains, the set included seldom-performed tunes like “The Ghost Ship” (the only other time I heard him perform this lugubrious epic, he apparently got bored after the first chorus, and instructed the audience to buy the “Balloon Man” single if they really wanted to hear the rest of it), “Goodnight I Say,” and “America” (the last from Hitchcock’s nearly-disowned second solo release, Groovey Decay, but also from Jonathan Demme’s new film Rachel Getting Married). According to fan database The Asking Tree, these songs have all been played far less often than one of the newer songs that Hitchcock played, “Olé Tarantula,” which was first performed in 2004.

Hitchcock’s voice is holding up quite well. You can hear a bit more strain at the top of his register, but not much. Rock-solid timing has never been his strong suit, and the one-two punch of “no drummer” and “lots of frantic strumming” led to several noticable gaffes. Hitchcock, who seemed relaxed and in good humor throughout, joked that we were getting the “organic” version of the show, from which the mistakes would subsequently be excised by the professional film crew.

Since there was a professional film crew (one could imagine that there might be some sort of 25th-anniversary hoopla for I Often Dream of Trains in the works for next year…) quite a lot of attention was paid to visual presentation, with Robyn taking the stage as a backlit, top-hatted silhouette, and wearing a black-and-white polka-dotted shirt against which his black-and-white polka-dotted electric guitar almost disappeared.

Highlights for me included the haunting, weird, and beautiful “Flavour of Night,” and “I Used to Say I Love You,” one of Hitchcock’s most straightforward, sad, and incisive songs (I think its lines “But you were reluctant/Although I was so hot/Now I understand it/But back then I did not” is genius). The barbershop trio arrangement of “Uncorrected Personality Traits” was outstanding, as were the three-part harmonies on faux-country “Ye Sleeping Knights of Jesus” (with lyrics updated from Cold War anxieties to Global Warmng anxieites). (Hitchcock also revised “This Could Be the Day” to make it slightly less un-PC, or perhaps he just mumbled. Either way, I can’t say I blame him.)

My favorite of Hitchcock’s trademark loopy anecdotes involved the recent colonization of Boston, and the construction of Logan airport after several hundred planes had landed there. The introduction to “This Could Be the Day,” was also memorable, casting the song’s narrator as one of the “Mojave Shrimp,” waking to fornicate (with a passel of synonyms) after the arrival of the once-in-several-decades deluge.

Tags: acoustic · h · live · somerville theatre

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment