Robyn Hitchcock at the Village Underground
Robyn Hitchcock found fame in the late 1970s as the leader of the post-punk/neo-psychedelic band The Soft Boys. His musical talent and lyrics have been likened to that of Bob Dylan, Syd Barrett and John Lennon.
After The Soft Boys, Robyn started an influential solo career, signing to major labels over the 80s and 90s, but he never found the same fame that he did when he was in the band. That said, he still found and maintained a die-hard cult following, and garnered strong critical reviews from his many album releases.
The rocker’s performance took place in trendy Shoreditch at the Village Underground. The building that houses the club is a turn-of-the-century warehouse adorned on the roof with old London Underground rolling stock, used ostensibly for recording and practice.
In the acridly smoky main hall a capacity crowd stood patiently waiting for the legend to start his set. No background music, just the light strumming of a group of people on stage sound-checking the plethora of guitars.
When Robyn unceremoniously took to the stage the audience erupted in rapturous applause. What followed was as Robyn himself put it, a reverse play-through of some choice songs from his huge catalogue of music over the course of two and a quarter hours. That is what he did, stopping every few songs to tell an anecdote or to introduce a new artist to stage to help him perform. A few times he was wildly boastful, and it was not clear if this was a joke or a serious declaration of brilliance.
Robyn’s backing band consisted of two flowery dressed backing singers, a sharply dressed cellist, an electric bassist seemingly dressed up as an American hunter and a powerfully rhythmic drummer. As the concert continued, more people joined the singer-songwriter on stage: a saxophonist, a pianist and a few more.
Although of undeniable quality, the music suffered from the venue’s rough acoustics and poor sound mix. Freeze was the highlight of the show: a wild rock and roll anthem that was one of the only tunes to fill the huge auditorium fully.
Robyn seems to have a thing about his cult of fans and the gig did not seem to be very accessible to neophytes – at least not the in jokes and the boasting. He knows his fans and his fans know he will not disappoint. If you enjoy the music, join the cult.
Photos: Marika Parizzi
For further information and tour dates visit Robyn Hitchcock’s website here.