Robyn Hitchcock at Rough Trade EastCultureMusicLive music
The day after Maggie Thatcher’s death seems an oddly apt time to see Robyn Hitchcock. Now past 60, he stands as a survivor from the very last school of songwriters to emerge from the Britain that Thatcher effectively quashed, and his music is permeated by that so very pre-Thatcher British-ness.
Hitchcock has spent the last 30 years establishing a vibrant and quirky solo career since the break up in 1981 of his iconic band The Soft Boys, who were in many ways one of the most vital bands of the late 1970s. Their opus of 1980 Underwater Moonlight was one of the founding stones of the neo-psychedelia movement at the very end of the 70s, bringing melody, folk forms and jangle-pop elements back into punk rock, and paving the way for the likes of Echo & the Bunnymen and R.E.M.
Hitchcock’s prolific songwriting has always been of consistently high quality, and his latest material is no exception, retaining his penchant for the bizarre while taking an overall accessible and poppy approach. Accompanied by cello, bass and two backup singers, Hitchcock took to the stage at Rough Trade East for a disarmingly charming concert promoting his new album, Love from London.
The brief set was a varied selection from Hitchcock’s broad canon, showcasing how well his voice has developed, and further demonstrating the singer’s talent for preserving his finest qualities as a songwriter and poet. His classic Trams of Old London and brand new concert highlight I Love You both contain such strikingly simplistic lyrics (the former essentially listing London boroughs, the latter repeating its title countless times) that hearing them side by side, it’s hard to believe the songs are separated by 29 years.
Hitchcock surprisingly closed the proceedings with a Bowie cover – Soul Love from Ziggy Stardust – effortlessly bringing the song’s anthemic spirit to life, and capturing both the current Bowie fever as well as his own musical ancestors. And in many ways this typifies Robyn Hitchcock, who has neither defined nor been defined by the many decades in which he’s made music. He and his songs exist outside of time, as unique and intriguing today as they ever were, and indeed shall be.
Photos: Luna Ingrassia
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Watch Robyn Hitchcock & friends rehearsing Be Still here: