Robyn Hitchcock – The Union Chapel, London, 5th June, 2015
Approaching my tenth Robyn Hitchcock gig in six years. I can’t escape a sort of feeling of the evangelical when I declare that I am so glad I have found him! He is the great soothing, soothsayer.
Seeing Robyn play just an acoustic guitar, singing gently, in north London’s grandest church for gigs is just the right tonic from the font. A balcony seat overlooking proceedings and the sinking of light into twilight into dark night, with ruby red and dark blue glass pane windows a-glint is divine.
But, ever obtuse, here comes ‘The Cheese Alarm’ to celebrate twilight. Now it’s ‘Nietzsche’s Way’ with its lines about Caesar in a body bag, and the perhaps now poignant line about Los Angeles police coming in ‘different flavours’ and how ‘history refuses to do you any favours’ (I can’t help but read that song’s inclusion as political considering recent times). Then the peculiar pun of Nietzsche and nature, and between body bags and tomato bags probably only makes sense/makes you smile in the delivery as you’re there… Ah, Robyn Hitchcock’s distorted humour that makes him so splendid.
Loved to hear ‘Queen Elvis’ with an introduction about Bob Dylan being the Morrissey of the 1960s, and how Morrissey would have liked this song to be about him – but it isn’t. This is one of Robyn’s most beautiful and lyrically accomplished songs. I would recommend/put this song on to anyone who is just starting out with Robyn Hitchock’s work. Opening lines of: ‘People get what they deserve/Time is round and space is curved/ Honey, have you got the nerve, to be Queen Elvis?’ Songs like this make me wonder why Robyn Hitchcock still isn’t widely revered as the better-than-Bob-Dylan of recent decades. All the wry spryness, the masterly song-crafting. And then there’re the stand-up comedy moments, cramming in the topics of: Royal babies, bygone churches of London, elderly people being like Youtube, and mint Aeros, all in one jab. There’s also just something so tenderly, warmly lovely about the presence of Robyn Hitchcock, and I don’t care if that sounds soppy, and that is rare.
Honeycombed accompanying vocals from newly recruited Emma Swift from the US was almightily welcome. Her voice has an incredible country twang that’s gentle and beautiful; the perfect accompaniment to Robyn Hitchcock, and great for so many songs of longing and lofty elation. Emma joined Robyn for a nice amount of songs, and all was sweetly smooth perfection. She writes and sings songs as a solo artist too, very brilliant. The two met at an Emmy Lou Harris concert, just to give this all a context.
The last element of the gig was Robyn being joined by faithful cellist Jenny Adejayan, for excellent songs like ‘The Ghost In You’ (a Psychedelic Furs cover). It’s all very heavenly.
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