The madcap Brit himself Robyn Hitchcock has come out on the road as a one man army of minstrels, playing a wide-ranging selection of songs snatched from time a legendary timeline of albums, from his beginnings as the frontman of the classic neo-psych and post-punk band The Soft Boys to his excellent self-titled 21st studio outing released just last year. This master of surreal banter has been switching between closer intimate shows and big band blowouts for the last several years, but even though I’ve seen him play alongside of REM’s Peter Buck at Webster as well as Yo La Tengo at Bowery as of recent, I have found that it is these small intimate acoustic shows that his real magic of showmanship shines, especially evident in his witty and bizarre banter and dream-like repartee he achieves with his fans on small stages. He sets aside all pretentiousness when gabbing with his audiences and really embraces the divergences of having a brilliantly spacy mind. I caught the second of his sold out two-night stand at Monty Hall, which is the relatively tiny side room venue that occupies much of the first floor of the offices of the classic Jersey City alternative music station WFMU.
“Time is like the cake of life, so let’s all take a slice tonight,” said Robyn of the show in which he took many requests that had been made by attendees on social media recently. Another of Mr. Hitchcock’s secrets is he knows a million songs seemly off the top of his head, so his setlists almost never end up being close to the same from night to night. He started off the show with some of his best known solo bits, like “My Wife and My Dead Wife,” “Madonna of the Wasps,” and “NY Doll.” He did get in a couple mid-set from his newest like “Sayonara” and the profound “Raymond and the Wires” where he recalled riding the trolleybus as a kid along the grooves in the street like those he mentioned seeing just outside on the streets of Jersey City as well as those on the surface of the also often forgotten and archaic vinyl discs. In his second set he also reminisced about playing his first solo disc, 1981’s Black Snake Diamond Role in its entirety recently with Jersey’s own Yo La Tengo with the consecutive classics “Love” and “The Lizard,” as well as playing a pair of masterpieces from his early Soft Boys days “Only the Stones Remain” and the ever so timely track “I Wanna Destroy You” for which he recalled being driven by his hatred of Ronald Reagan, whom he know finds quaint compared to who we have in office now. As he also always does during these shows, he pulled out some deeper cuts as well, including some of my favs like “The Cheese Alarm,” “Raymond and the Wires,” and “Olé! Tarantula.” As has been the case with most of his recent low-key tours, he brought out his main squeeze, Australian-born country artist Emma Swift, to sing along to the the last few songs with, which included an encore of a pair of covers, Neil Young’s “Motion Pictures” and a pitch-perfect version of Bob Dylan’s “Visions of Johanna.”
Article: Dean Keim