Yeah, Robyn Hitchcock didn’t play Balloon Man. I was frustrated by this one fact in the entire set. I love Balloon Man. I didn’t leave bitter though. The setlist was pretty amazing. Wednesday night at the Music Box upstairs theater was packed with Hitchcock fans. It was mostly the 40+ crowd, but there were some youngsters in their 20’s and 30’s there too. This was my first time upstairs at the Music Box having been in the intimate downstairs showroom just a couple weeks before for Rhett Miller. The upstairs is pretty amazing as well with table service and decent views from almost anywhere. The tables are a little “cozy” not much room to sprawl but not as bad as the cramped rows of seating at other venues, and definitely better than standing room only. Even with the larger area this still remains a concert lovers kind of venue with limited chit chat. This is a club for people who actually want to see a show. Ryan Adams would love it.
The opener was Akron locals Shivering Timbers. No idea how to capture what they do out there but they are the soundtrack to any David Lynch or Wim Winders films. Kind of creepy, in a haunting sort of way with slowed down surf guitar (Jayson Benn), and ethereal vocals (Sarah Benn) and a drummer (Dennis Kshywonis) that can seriously keep the beat. I think the Timbers did well in their set but they really lost a lot in the mixing department. I am not sure if it was because I was in the front row next to the guitar amp or what but the guitar really ate up the vocals. I saw her mouth moving, but not much was coming out. I am not sure if this was their fault of course, but it sure didn’t sound like they were in the main PA. Don’t get me wrong, they were really good and I would love to see them again mixed properly.
After a short intermission alternative rock legend Robyn Hitchcock took to the stage and launched into “The Abyss”. Hitchcock is an odd fellow. He is known to be somewhat eccentric. His moves on stage come off calculated at times. You never know what he will play nor what might come out of his mouth. He is a storyteller which made the interludes that much more interesting. He played a very mixed set of tunes from his solo works along with some Soft Boys classics (Only the Stones Remain & Old Pervert). The encore were all covers (Ghost In You – Psychedelic Furs, River Man – Nick Drake, Visions of Johanna – Bob Dylan, Charlotte Anne – Julian Cope). When he came back for the encore everyone was shouting out their favorites. He simply said “Okay, I’m off duty now. I finished doing my own stuff so as an indulgence to me I’m going to play stuff from my record collection. It’s possible for a bunch of songs to be even better than mine and this is them.” They were great covers but with so many originals dammit man I wanted more Hitchcock.
He played some definite “hits” like “My Wife, and My Dead Wife”, and “Madonna of the Wasps”, but absent were some of the ones I thought were sure to be there. No “Balloon Man” (we have established that), no “One Long Pair of Eyes”, and no “So You Think You’re In Love”. Seriously I love his solo work, and all of his Soft Boys stuff, and his Venus 3 stuff. I was a child of MTV’s 120 minutes. I grew up on his Egyptians stuff so I left a little empty inside even though he played a phenomenal set. Based on the song shout outs, he could have played a 6 hour set though. He didn’t have an actual setlist and shot from the hip. When you have that may records and that many songs you can’t pick everyone’s favorite children I guess. Even though I bitch a little the show was great. The Music Box is the only place I could see Hitchcock play. It is a songwriters venue for sure. All the emphasis is where it should be; on the stage. At other venues I feel like half the people are there to have conversations and catch up. The Music Box remains an oasis for true music fans.
The Wreck of the Arthur Lee
Only the Stones Remain
She Doesn’t Exist
Sally Was a Legend
You and Oblivion
Trouble In Your Blood
San Francisco Patrol
My Wife and My Dead Wife
I’m Only You
Adventure Rocket Ship
Madonna of the Wasps
The Ghost in You (The Psychedelic Furs cover)
River Man (Nick Drake cover)
Visions of Johanna (Bob Dylan cover)
Charlotte Anne (Julian Cope cover)