In 1998, I was explaining the differences between yo-yos to a customer in Spitalfields Market, when I realised that the person behind him looking at the stall was Robyn Hitchcock. “Hello Robyn,” I said, to his back, just a fraction too late, as he wandered away.
Meanwhile in Exeter last night, I caught the last night of Mr Hitchcock’s current British tour. It only occurred to me just a few minutes before he was due on stage that these days you don’t have to wait to call out song requests, so I tweeted one through. Slim chance, maybe, but why not?
While “singer-songwriter” (with added twisted adjectives of your own preference) is an accurate description, one of the good things about an RH gig is that you get to be entertained between the music too. Tonight, after a brief false start with a harmonica rack and a guitar lead that had impertinently failed to plug itself in, Robyn told us tales of, amongst other things, trolley busses, fire alarm memories, ancient ancestors and their trains to Aberdeen, and the problems of Neolithic Grandma Architecture. All of which were quite as they should be in a world where reality and history are parallel quirks of space-time.
Oh, and there were songs too, new and old and in between. I may have been too late with my tweet, but… Antwoman, swiftly followed by 52 Stations, gained early multiple ticks in my book. Along the way, we also had some stunt guitar to close I’m Only You, Raymond And The Wires, Virginia Woolf and I Want To Tell You About What I Want from the latest album, The Cheese Alarm, and Only The Stones Remain. (Wait! It was BEADS and fish that changed hands? I’ve been singing “meat” for years.)
Peppering the evening were also many implausible requests to the sound desk (“can you make this sound like well-played 12-string, with a touch of sober David Crosby”), which each later seemed to have managed to end up going to have been what was about to have happened. (See the note about time earlier.)
Emma Swift joined Robyn for some songs at the end, and her harmonies gave a lift to Glass Hotel in particular. Closing up with the neither-Dylanesque-nor-Morrisseyan-yet-perhaps-related – I paraphrase – Queen Elvis, and the crowd bayed for more.
Shirtwatch: off-acid pink, with blue and maroon floral motif.
Robyn came back, solo, and said “apparently someone requested this”. OH! Seems I’d not been too late after all, so hooray, I got to hear 1974 live for the first time. (It’s been quite a while since my last RH gig.) I can almost taste the coffeemate and the denim. And to exit, for fun (until the melancholic Unforgiven line) Gene Hackman. An excellent evening’s distraction.
Well Robyn, I may not have sold you a yo-yo way back then, but when I got to design my own custom kendama recently, you got swirled in the paint a little, so that seems to close that loop.