Robyn Hitchcock – The Crescent, York – May 8th 2019

May 9, 2019

Hitchcock wended his way to a fearfully rainy wet York to enthral an audience of devotees of the bard’s canon. He’s currently touring some lesser venues in the UK between a selection of gigs in the land of his domicile, the USA. The assembled were not disappointed as he plundered twelve albums released between 1982 and 2017. The spellbinding 90 minutes included 18 songs.

There was much to enjoy: a selection of tunes that have a pop sensibility and lyrics that are unique with their surrealism, comedic couplets that often expose England nakedly with not least a melancholy that predates Morrissey. If you doubt my assessment then he started with “My Wife and My Dead Wife” from 1985’s Fegmania!

“A Man With A Woman’s Shadow”, “Saturday Groovers”, “The Lizard”, “52 Stations”, “I Pray When I’m Drunk” and “Sally Was a Legend” darted around his catalogue of nearly forty years. The consistent quality of the writing over all these years shows a creativity and muse that is still as essential and unique.

Standing alone in a spotlight he sang and played an acoustic guitar. His playing skills comfortably encompassed energetic strummed rhythms through to elegant, literal Flamenco, picking with a complexity and delicacy that drew applause as he solo’d. His voice could reach a sweet falsetto and then fall to a sonorous baritone. His poetical words are enunciated with the clarity of that other vintage English troubadour – Al Stewart. All this meant that the whole evening had a memorable diversity of sounds and emotions.

With occasional sips from a cup he continued sharing his career resumé of great songs and I especially liked “Television” with his tender delivery. “Sunday Never Comes” is a 2018 composition that’s been sung on the film Juliet, Naked by Ethan Hawke. This is a belter tune and lyric.

If the music was sublime then the banter between songs was hilarious. A dialogue with the sound engineer continued throughout as the guitar sound was adjusted with treatments along with the vocals. Whilst probably known in advance he might ask “Can you give me a rhythm section sound like John McVie and Mick Fleetwood but not sound like Stevie Nicks, but feel like Stevie Nicks? Difficult I know because she’s a Gemini”. Even the promotion of the merchandise was fabulous. A list of ways were described as to how you might lay hands on this treasure on the night or at other times. One distribution channel involved a cat called Tubby. He’d deliver the desired item personally by flying over your abode and dropping the package. Fear that this may not prove reliable was allayed when he advised “Tubby only has one eye but his aim is true”.

The last two songs were sung after a shirt change (?) and we got “Dismal City” from a 2011 Norwegian releaseTromsø Kaptein. This was a memorable Kinks-esque tribute that he described as his English National Anthem. Finishing with the epic “Queen Elvis” he took a bow and joined his sister at the ‘merch desk’.

Brilliant.

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