Robyn Hitchcock - Grand Victory - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Robyn Hitchcock - Grand Victory

by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:2013-04-22

Last night's Robyn Hitchcock show at the Grand Victory was one of the best I've ever seen from the man in the polka dot shirt. And I've seen him plenty. With such a long and proflic career, it's anyone's guess what rabbits he'll put out of his hat.

He kicked off with 'Tonight', a Soft Boys classic from Underwater Moonlight. 'Madonna of the Wasps' harks back to his MTV days and is even better on solo acoustic. He also dusted off '52 Stations' from 1982's Groovy Decay. Its never been one of his best albums, so nice to hear it rescued from obscurity. 

The pre-show music piped in The Velvet Underground outtake 'Stephanie Says'. Who knows, maybe it inspired his bone chilling rendition of 'Caroline Says'. It was one of the night's most powerful and unexpected moments. You could hear a pin drop. Leave it to Lou Reed to take a chipper diitty like 'Stephanie' and beat it black and blue and call it 'Caroline'. And leave it to Hitchcock to make it his own.

'New York Doll'is a late career classic from 2006's underrated Ole Tarantula. The same goes for '(A Man's Gotta Know His Limitations) Briggs'Thanks to Hitchcock's witty explaination, I now know "Briggs" refers to a character in Clint Eastwood's Magnum Force who blew himself up with a car bomb. Making me appreciate the song even more.   

'The Ghost Ship' is not only one of Hitchcock's more obscure outtakes, its a personal favorite. A B-side from 1988's Globe of Frogs, its only official release has been on the now out of print, You & Oblivion. I thought I'd never hear it live, much less see a middle aged man in the crowd head banging to it. Speaking of 'Globe of Frogs'when Hitchcock opened up the floor to requests, 'Frogs' won the lottery. His solo acoustic version was a bit of an eye opener. Its his 'A Day in the Life'. Except its a rather weird day in several rather strange lives. With its different strum patterns, 'Globe of Frogs' was also was a showcase for Hitchcock's unique skill as a guitarist. 

'Only The Stones Remain', livened up what Hitchcock quipped was a rather dark, dour set. Leave it to a song about death to get toes tapping. Speaking of death, both 'Death and Love' and 'Strawberries Dress' drew from 2013's criminally ignored, Love From London. While unfamiliar to many, they still commanded attention. Same went for 'Dismal City'from 2011's compelling but largely overlooked Tromsø, Kaptein. Hitchcock commenting, "this is the only place you're likely to hear it", describing it as "Madness attempting to play a Kinks song."  Also most welcome was, 'Queen Elvis'a song that never loses its biting wit.

The Grand Victory is an intimate venue. Perhaps too intimate. It was hot and we could all smell each other, which was delightful. Hitchcock communed with the audience in a perfect Love & Hate era Leonard Cohen deadpan as we all pleaded for air conditioning. And nothing brings groundling and Rock God together than having said Rock God awkwardly worm his way through the dense crowd to the stage. Afterwards, I stood beside my hero as he wearily muttered, "Oh God," to himself at the prospect of having to worm his way through and back again, for the encore.   

An unexpected surprise was the opener, Emma Swift. What a voice. And her dreamy, melancholic country ballads are stunning. 'Bittersweet' lived up to its title brilliantly. In addition to her own beguling material, she gave a gorgeous rendition of Gram Parsons' 'Brass Buttons'She ended with an achingly beautiful version of a personal favorite of mine, a song I strum to myself in the wee small hours, a song not anyone is likely to know unless they're a die hard Rowland S. Howard fan. With 'Shivers'she sent one right up my spine. Speaking of covers, as an encore, Swift and Hitchcock performed a priceless and unforgettable version of 'Pale Blue Eyes'. This marked the 2nd Lou Reed cover of the night. Safe to say Robyn was in a Lou Reed state of mind. That said, no Robyn Hitchcock show would be complete without a Dylan cover. I was blown away by his 'Visions of Johanna' during his Soft Boys reunion tour some years back. This night he offered up a positively heartbreaking version of 'Simple Twist of Fate'.

Out of all the times, I've seen the man in the polka dot shirt, this show really hit the sweet spot for me. Thanks for such a memorable night, Mr. H. And you too, Emma Swift. Congrats, you both can pull off polka dots.

Comments (2)

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Loved his stuff with The Egyptians, and 'Goodbye Oslo' was also fantastic. Sounds like a great night.

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Me, too. One of the most underrated songwriters in the alt world... Great review.

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