Friday, 1 February 2008

"Welcome to Network SouthEast"

On Tuesday night, having more or less won my battle for control of my respiratory mucus membranes, I headed down for a Robyn Hitchcock gig at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre, a genteel, small, all-seater venue perfectly suited to my still-delicate state. On my way in, I found this groovy glowing sculpture:


It's part of the Festive Lights installation by David Batchelor, and sadly (since it was pretty with all the colours) will have been dismantled by now.

Waiting for A, I had a hazelnut brownie and a real lemonade for "dinner" in the Royal Festival Hall - do you think this is why I get colds? At least there was vitamin C involved somewhere. Surprisingly, the brownie was round and in a sort of muffin case, which seemed fundamentally wrong. Good though, with whole nuts rather than pieces. Mmmm. Then A turned up wearing his scarf, most gratifying.

Support were the slightly odd Rasputina - two cellists and a drummer, singing songs about dying deer and cold snaps in 1816. Riiiight. They were good, but not really my thing, too much yodelling. They were dressed most amusingly, from left to right: goth Victoriana with a black feather headdress, barefoot native American with a big single feather in her hair, and some sort of Civil War/General Custer thing. I think they had the whole audience mildly bemused.


Then time for Robyn Hitchcock:


You may or may not have heard of him. Respect to you if you have. He's one of our great songwriters, generally described as "English", "eccentric", "surreal" and/or "psychadelic" in some combination. He certainly is part of a musical family tree including Syd Barrett (in fact the last time I saw Robyn play was his recreation of Pink Floyd's famous 1967 Games For May show last year, as a tribute to Syd). Robyn's songs are very quirky, extremely witty and funny, although not funny in the sense that musical comedians like Mitch Benn aim to be (possibly with the exception of one called The Cheese Alarm which is just silly). Most of them are rather more melancholy, but always fiercely intelligent. Above all, he has the most brilliant turn of phrase, and is a bloody good musician. I've seen him quite a few times and he is always wonderful, and his monologues between songs inevitably have the audience nearly wetting themselves.

Anyway, this concert was to celebrate the reissue of his 1984 album I Often Dream Of Trains (hence Robyn's opening comment which gives us the title of this blog). Why did all the good stuff in music first happen when I was too young to appreciate it? There were also a couple of extra tracks thrown in to the performace that were conceived at the same time but ended up on different albums, like the wonderful My Wife & My Dead Wife (what a concept for a song!) and Queen Elvis, and a beautiful cover of More Than This by Roxy Music, as we were told that Avalon inspired Robyn to write an album that was dark green.

A and I were most thrilled, however, at gossip from Robyn about R.E.M.'s new album, Accelerate, due at the end of March - apparently this will only be 34 minutes long! Whilst that's rather upsetting in terms of actual quantity of R.E.M. per album wait time, at least it means they're likely to be fast, rock songs rather than the turgid stuff on Around The Sun (it was better live, OK). Please let that be so.

For more about Robyn Hitchcock, there are a couple of short Time Out articles on him, both as lists of fascinating facts, well worth a read here and here. His own website, featuring his music, poetry and art, plus art from his relations, is here.

1 comment:

fak said...

Darn it, Robyn Hitchcock and Rasputina, how did I miss this? OK, so I was at work and couldn't have gone anyway, but :-(