published: 29 /
Dastardly watches Robyn Hitchcock thrill a London audience with a full band line up, psychedelic banter and a forty- year straddling set.
There’s an ‘English Rock ‘N’ Roll’ band currently doing the rounds. You may have heard of them.. they’re called the Rolling Stones.
Flying several hundred feet below the Stones’ converted Boeing ‘Starship’ in an elegant De Havilland Gypsy Moth is one Robyn Hitchcock. Mr Hitchcock is wearing a brown leather flying hat, goggles and a huge smile, and, though he might not be filling football stadiums, he is still purveying a very English Rock ‘N’ Roll and tellingly his set tonight at ULU includes a healthy dose of New. Songs. One more time, that’s
No wonder he’s smiling. Hitchcock’s self-titled 2017 album was a Revolverian masterclass and the set is peppered with three of the highlights from it - ‘Virginia Woolf’, ‘Sayonara Judge’ and ‘Mad Shelley’s Letterbox’.
Helping him deliver these and a trawl through his forty year Egyptians/Soft Boys/Venus 3 back cat is ace backing band the LA Squires. Ahhh, so maybe this is the special relationship we keep getting told about..John and Paul listening to the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly inventing ‘indie’, Mick’s ahem Southern accent. Whatever, the juices are definitely still flowing back and forth as the ‘Squires crank out the Stratocaster groove and a hypnotic version of ‘Insanely Jealous’ maybe sums up the transatlantic attraction.
For such a distilled essence you might expect a slightly out-of-the-ordinary class of punter and Robyn’s crowd do not disappoint. There’s the three-pint holding version, carving his way through the crowd before the gig announcing with a hearty chuckle, “We’re only here for the bits he says in-between songs” ; the swaying, staggering foot-botherer at the back who finally succumbs to the alcohol about half-an-hour in ,and then the bespectacled headmaster who suddenly peers in like one of Roger Waters’ ‘Wall’ puppets to chastise me and my neighbour for chatting.. “I can’t hear the lyrics he’s singing !”.
Going back to the first punter, he’s got a point as Hitchcock’s stage banter is the stuff of legend. I can still remember a surreal thread from his gig at Cecil Sharp House in 2016 that involved detailed instructions to the soundman about how he wanted his vocals to sound like “someone up on the battlements!” Tonight Harold Wilson and Ted Heath get entwined in a late 60’s folk/rock cameo, and we’re reminded that real men don’t use guitar tuners.
Helpfully, in terms of the live review/simile interface, Hitchcock finishes on a reworking of an old hit that never was ‘Grooving on an Inner Plane’, and then climbs back into the cockpit, straps on the goggles and prepares for another solo traipse round the British Isles followed by some gigs stateside where ne now resides.
We all wave from the viewing tower in black and white just like the ‘60s, and he waves back then pulls out the map stuffed down the side of the small metal seat. “‘It’s not where you’re from..” it says on the front.