The Lantern, Colston Hall, Bristol
8th Nov 2013
Robyn Hitchcock, the man who calls his music ““paintings you can listen to”, has recently been on tour and Louder Than War’s Philip Allen caught his Bristol show.
The Colston Hall this evening is a busy place to be. Jools Holland is playing the main hall and Bristol’s Get The Blessing are performing in the foyer for the 25th Blues & Jazz Festival opening night. Singer songwriter Robyn Hitchcock’s sold out show at beautifully named The Lantern, The Colston’s smaller performance room is where I am heading. Sitting down among the crowd who seem to all be of pension age, Robyn takes the stage looking like James May’s slightly older, cooler brother in his Paul Smith paisley shirt and light blue jeans.
Robyn has always been the poetic wild card. He is the quintessential middle class English underdog intent on flying his freak flag. Since he began his career in The Soft Boys in the mid to late seventies, he has forged his own unique absurd folk music in which the influences of surrealism, Syd Barratt and even The Goons is present. In the eighties, Robyn with the help of The Egyptians produced a few college radio hits but he has never been what is known as popular.
We are treated to some seriously absurd banter in which he attempts to introduce his songs but finds himself in a stream of consciousness word play in which he contemplates the sound a falling frozen kitten may or may not have. He had me in stitches. Robyn’s playing style is equally awkward as he slaps and tickles his guitar strings singing odes to cheese with The Cheese Alarm.
Even though Robyn has a new album out, Love From London, he doesn’t seem to bothered with promoting it or playing it as most of the tracks I recognise are from his early career. Museum Of Sex, Dismal City and The Soft Boys track, Only The Stones Remain are all given a solo rendition as there are definitely no Egyptians with him on stage. In the encore, he plays his renowned cover versions of Dylan’s She Belongs To Me and Nick Drake’s River Man and the room is aglow as the smiles on our faces testifies.
All words by Philip Allen. More work by Philip can be found in his Louder Than War archive.