If you would have said to 20 year old me that I would someday think that a record made by a 60 year old guy was was one of the best records of the year I would have scoffed at you and said disdainfully that I don’t do old guy rock. Apparently age has made me wiser and more open minded because Robyn Hitchcock‘s latest album Love from London is one of his best, and one of the year’s best. You may have noticed that there are a lot of psychedelic-influenced records that have come out this year and many of them have been very good. So there is a lot of competition out there, but Hitchcock’s bests them all and shows us that old dudes can be weird and spry at the same time.
Hitchcock himself has been quoted as saying “Rock and Roll is an old man’s game now.” From the looks of the crowd at the Neptune Tuesday night, there are still a lot of old men in the game and doing quite well or at least still getting out. There were a few youngsters in the audience, but I’m including myself in the that group, so no one was too wet behind the ears.
Being a huge fan of his new record I was excited to hear the new songs live, but Hitchcock had other ideas. Love from London was recorded in England with his English band which is mainly Hitchcock and Paul Nobel. Playing in his band in Seattle he had the Venus 3 (Actually it was the Venus 4: Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey, Bill Rieflin and Sean Nelson) with him. I assume they did not know any of the new songs because the only new one they played was Be Still. This was kind of a disappointment considering the strength of the new material, especially Stupefied, Devil on a String and Strawberries Dress which all belong in the pantheon of Hitchcock strange great songs. I suppose given the size of his oeuvre, one song from the new album is a lot, since many of his records got none.
He began the evening with an acoustic guitar and Sean Nelson at his side. They did a couple acoustic songs and then the rest of the band joined in an electrified the songs. Hitchcock was dressed in paisley and his baritone trolled the depths and pleasures of psychedelia. You and Oblivion, Airscape, Goodnight Oslo were some more highlights of the set along with his off the wall banter that involved ants moving to Portland people with crustaceans for hands. He did a couple Soft Boys songs. Queen of Eyes sounded amazing with Nelson’s harmonies and Buck’s twelve string and Kingdom of Love featured McCaughey recreating that song’s amazing bass part. They encored with Barret, Beatles and the Velvet Underground. It served as a kind of a history lesson, or just a reminder of where he’s still coming from. A strange familiar place.
Set List: Alright, Yeah | You and Oblivion | No, I Don’t Remember Guildford | Goodnight Oslo | Queen of Eyes (The Soft Boys ) | City of Shame | Up to Our Nex | N.Y. Doll | Madonna of the Wasps | Underground Sun | Be Still | Adventure Rocket Ship | Airscape | Kingdom of Love (The Soft Boys ) | Encore: Long Gone (Syd Barrett) | She Said She Said (The Beatles) | Heroin (VU) | I’m Waiting for the Man (VU)