Robyn Hitchcock (and a smidgeon of Patti Smith) - Paradiso - 10/06/07

There was one “soliloquy” about Patti Smith and a tarantula, and another about an orphan in space whose sole contact with planet Earth was a transistor radio playing the Doobie Brothers…

 

 

Robyn Hitchcock (and a smidgeon of Patti Smith) – Paradiso – 10/06/07

 

Mad, Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus Three (Peter Buck, Bill Rieflin, Scott McCaughy) at the Paradiso... you'd think in some ways this would a perfect gig; Hitchcock's surreal, guitar troubadour-isms played out in the (official) spiritual home of Amsterdam's 60s cultural revolution. Of course the very idea of seeing him play in the upstairs room was well nigh akin to mana from heaven for certain members of Incendiary's staff. The Hitch was on after Patti Smith had finished rocking the sold-out downstairs hall; we turned up a little early at 9.30 to be let in as, apparently, the door didn't think the First Lady of Rock wouldn't be playing for much longer. How wrong could they have been?

 

We walked into the main stage area to see Smith running round the stage like a teenager, covering the Seed's Pushin' Too Hard, The Door's Soul Kitchen as well as the "big songs", you'll know them as well as anyone; Gloria, Because the Night... And then do an inspired monologue about the conversation she'd just had with the Rembrandt statue. It was fabulous stuff. Not content with playing an extra hour (seemingly just for the crack of it) she invited Peter Buck and Robyn H on to finish a monstrous all-star jam. The crowd went ape, and this unexpected greatest hits/all-star jam ranks high amongst my favourite gig memories.

 

Hell, we hadn't even started seeing what we'd come to see...

 

Finally, the little room was reasonably full with curious Patti Smith fans and the sort of bloke who loves the Soft Boys; presentable enough on the outside, but clearly in possession of too many strange thoughts to make any normal interaction impossible.  And, (something I hadn't banked on) lots of pretty girls. I mean I shouldn't really be surprised in theory, because Hitchcock's music is inordinately sexy...

 

Still, I was worried as the audience decided to talk through a heartfelt (though slightly nervous, maybe even resigned) acoustic version of Queen Elvis; the all–star band not in sight as yet... Noise was needed to garner a friendly though fairly uncommitted audience's attention. I needn't have worried. Once the band cranked out the set (and it is something to see Peter Buck weave patterns on his twelvestring some four feet from you) it was plain sailing. The set list was bloody tremendous; all I could have asked for (save maybe All I Want to Do Is Fall in Love, but hey...) Ole! Tarantula, 'Rocket Ship, Balloon Man, Queen of Eyes, Sally Was a Legend, a brilliant Somewhere Apart, Mexican God...

 

And Hitchcock's peculiar ability to take you outside the confines of time and space with slightly surreal pop imagery was pretty evident given the amount of people happily grooving away, their minds utterly elsewhere. Coupled with his manic wit - and the fact that he was obviously enjoying the company of his band-mates - proceedings were in danger of becoming magical. There was one "soliloquy" about Patti Smith and a tarantula, and another about an orphan in space whose sole contact with planet Earth was a transistor radio playing the Doobie Brothers...

 

You also got the feeling that Robyn was genuinely touched to be asked back for two encores... Things had surely reached their peak with a tremendous version of Kingdom of Love, but what did we know? Just to make the evening's events completely out of hand (from an emotional point of view), Lenny Kaye decided that he was joining in, and the expanded band decided on working their way through a pretty impromptu mini-set of '60s classics; Waiting For My Man, a stunning Eight Miles High (with enough solo-ing to fill a Spinal Tap movie) and She Said, She Said. Jaws dropped, old gits fell apart dancing and a-hollering and we all missed our trains. And that wasn't all; a swapping of instruments and a rendition of Listening to the Higsons almost had me carried out...  I suspect that the band may also have realised that Amsterdam was at that very moment suffering a downpour of Biblical proportions. If they did just play on because of the rain, then that is a stunning act of charity. Or maybe it was the hippy vibes, who cares, sometimes it's nice just to give people extra credit...

 

Words: Richard Foster