Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sally Was A Legend

concert review: Robyn Hitchcock and The Venus 3, Mark Pickerel @ The Mod Club(Toronto, Ontario), November 10, 2006

Robyn Hitchcock @ The Mod Club: photo by Michael Ligon

Robyn Hitchcock's name has always loomed as one of pop music's eccentric fellows. He's been more of a figurehead to me, much like say Syd Barrett and Captain Beefheart, artists who I haven't really listened to much of, if at all, but have more often read their names in print. Robyn's is a notch up on the listening scale since I've actually heard his music although I haven't listened to it often. If I made an effort, I'd probably be able to dig up at least five or more of his albums in some format(cassette, vinyl, CD) from my music collection. Of what I heard/recalled I was fond of Robyn's jangly pop melodies and enigmatic vocals. So in the interest of pop music academia, I decided I need to see Robyn live for myself.

Opening the show was Bloodshot Records, Seattle music veteran Mark Pickerel. He performed a cover of Lee Hazelwood's "Some Velvet Morning", a song that he said he'd hope that Toronto's hometown boy Dallas Good would be in town to perform with him[he mentioned that The Sadies were off on tour in Europe]. Mark performed an admirable brand of acoustic country-tinged tunes, accompanying himself on percussion with one foot on a tambourine and the other on a bass drum kick pedal. With varying degrees of melodic quality, there were a few songs that I thought were pretty good although without the benefit of a band, some of the songs just did not hold up. A good effort, but if the chatter was any indication, most of the audience(at least those towards the back) didn't seem interested.

A few years back I watched Robyn's live performance DVD "Storefront Hitchcock" which gave a glimpse into what I could expect from Robyn in a live setting. An archetypal troubadour he illustrates an almost congruent balance between banter and musical performance much like Billy Bragg, but where Billy is coherent and political, Robyn seemed much more obtuse. Even if Robyn's banter seemed like the ramblings of a mad man, it was entertaining in and of itself and it built up anticipation for the pop songs that followed. I could only actually recognize two songs of the entire set list, the jangly "Madonna Of The Wasps" of his 1990 album "Queen Elvis" and the beat-pop-esque "Sally Was A Legend" off his 1999 album "Jewels For Sophia", but it was of no matter since much of the set was entirely infectious. Chromewaves witnessed the show as well(and even has a photo of the setlist) and mentions that much of the set drew from the new album "Ole Tarantula" plus some classic Soft Boys material from "Underwater Moonlight"[which reminds me that several years back, I actually picked this up on vinyl for $3 and never listened to it!].

Robyn's backup band, The Venus 3 as they were referred to, were actually Peter Buck of R.E.M., Scott McCaughey of The Young Fresh Fellows and more recently The Minus 5 and Bill Rieflin who's apparently drummed for Ministry(!) but most recently as part of R.E.M.'s touring band. Much of Peter Buck's jangly guitar pop goodness shone through during the set and his oh-so-unique body movements and posturing were so identifiable. I mean, if I never get around to see R.E.M. live, this was the next best thing. Scott had his turn in the spotlight when Robyn and the band returned for the first of their two encores, because as Scott expressed they'd usually perform a Minus 5 song but instead reached back to perform a Young Fresh Fellows song instead, to the delight of some old-school YFF fans as it was audible. I had the unfortunate experience of almost blacking out(I think due to a bad reaction of the beer I had to some cough medicince I took earlier in the evening) during the show which put a damper on my overall enjoyment of the show, but after I recovered I think I was even more exhilirated as Robyn and band finished the show in fine fashion, through two encores.

Update: Here are my photos.

We Saw A Chicken uploaded audio[lossless format] of the show to Dimeadozen[registration required] and also has a link to the show in mp3 format!

Bury Me Not brings us this quote from Robyn from the show at The Mod Club. Word, indeed.
In other news, Pollstar indicates Snow Patrol, Silversun Pickups and Ok Go have a show at Ricoh Coliseum on Saturday March 31, 2007.

Ottawa music blog faves, The Acorn, will be at Lee's Palace on December 15 for their CD release(for their album "Tinfist") opening for Toronto's Elliott Brood.

I'm looking forward to the confirmed lineup for next February's Brampton Indie Arts Festival(to take place at Brampton, Ontario's new Rose Theatre), but it's exciting to see(according to their MySpace) that The Diableros will be playing the festival on February 14, 2007. A list of other bands apparently confirmed for the festival were recently posted on Stille Post.

Billboard reports on the the alt-country guests lineup to be featured on country legend Charlie Louvin's new album in more than a decade, a self-titled effort to be released February 20 next year. I'm afraid I'm not familiar with Mr. Louvin but the alt-country guests lineup alone has me looking forward to this.

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