Robyn Hitchcock’s performance at the Barns of Wolf Trap was an intimate night of serene acoustic song versions on guitar and piano. Hilarity through left field humour ensued with a very personal touch to top it all off.
The Barns of Wolf Trap make for an immaculate concert experience. First off, the building itself has an amazing history (see the link), I truly have never seen architecture of the sort in a venue before and it makes for an incredible sounding space. It’s the ultimate intimate experience, you feel close even at the back of the balcony. The location is amazing and relaxing (just like the Filene Center). There simply isn’t a venue like The Barns..
Hitchcock started the night with “Man With a Woman’s Shadow” before he launched into the alternative rock hit “Balloon Man”. – This was a nostalgic song for my dad and I to hear live. My dad first heard it on the airwaves of WHFS when it came out, and when I was 5 or 6 I had a mix CD with the song on it – I played that CD almost every day/night.
From the very beginning Hitchcock was already developing a hilarious show-long bit where before certain songs he would ask the sound man (Bob) for effects that were sometimes ridiculously impossible to achieve.- “Tonight’s invisible entity to whom I pray to is Bob.- please give me the dawn of delay – the overture of delay” -” Bob, on this song give me the vocals of a triple tracked Art Garfunkel with a dash of Carl Wilson and a sober David Crosby – “Pan the guitar so it sounds like a Pink Floyd concert in 1969″.
Other highlight songs from the first set included “Chinese Bones”, “San Francisco Patrol” (this one really shined as the calm rendition was made for the room’s acoustics), and the upbeat “Fifty Two Stations”.
Hitchcock explained that there would be an intermission, followed by another set – For the reason that no one could put up with his songs for that long of a period and it would give the audience members a chance to “Text at intermission about how he was better last time you saw him but some song selections are choice.”
The first set ended with even more evidence of the songwriter’s insanely massive back catalogue of brilliant songs and his ability to still write them – “I Pray When I’m Drunk” was met with much applause as well as his newest single “Sunday Never Comes”.
What was most surprising may have been how funny Hitchcock was. His quirky and quick-witted jokes were always met with laughter from the entire crowd. – His dialogue between songs made the show so personable. – He said he would sign any merch fans had after show before joking that he would also “sign your Fugazi albums”
The second set brought along more pleasantries to the audience members’ ears. This is to be expected with Hitchcock as he is the type of songwriter that is beyond consistent, so chances are that any fan who comes to a show will likely love whatever he plays – Plus his voice and guitar/piano playing are top notch.
Some notable songs from my perspective were “Flavour of Night” (the first song of the set where he returned in a new dazzling button up shirt with popsicles on it… he was wearing an astonishing floral shirt with birds on it before that), “Winchester”, “Madonna of the Wasps (one of the best acoustic), “Queen of Eyes” and the jamming “Saturday Groovers”.
More of Hitchcock’s humour broke through as he mentioned his cats “Tubby” and “Ringo”. Speaking on his two divorces, he exclaimed, “It’s only so long you can relish the horrors of the world till you turn to cats and chocolate”. Extravagant stories about Tubby brought the audience to chuckles as Hitchcock mentioned Tubby having the hots for a waitress in Latvia and how he delivers hair products to Bryan Ferry when he plays a show in an exotic location – Tubby only has one eye but it’s a good one”
Hitchcock’s encore ended the night on two covers from his record collection: Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine” and John Lennon’s “God” – both were phenomenal as he’s one of the only artists who could pull off songs like that.
After the show my Dad and I stuck around for a few minutes to say hello to Hitchcock. He was so classy and took time to address every fan/sign whatever they had. You could tell he was genuine and grateful. As I stepped up to him he complimented the dots on my shirt which I had actually bought because it looked like a shirt he usually wears. I thanked him for inspiring me as a young musician and he said he was glad I could find value in the music before he quipped that he felt his music may have held up as well as Harry Connick Jr’s. When I arrived home I was still in awe of how cool Hitchcock was. It was definitely the best experience I’ve had meeting a musician. I glanced at the page in the program I had him autograph and saw the words “Top Dots” above his signature. 🙂