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Robyn Hitchcock (Wednesday, November 03, 2004, Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis)
Robyn Hitchcock also performed Thursday night, November 4th at the Kitty Kat Club - Photo by David de Young


By David de Young

This is supposed to be a Robyn Hitchcock review. Forgive me if it’s interrupted with other realities. Given the events of the past two days (i.e. First Avenue closing and Bush winning the election), that cannot be helped.

The Jonathan Richman, Robyn Hitchcock and Jesse Denatale show was the first national show to be re-located from the ill-fated First Avenue which shut its doors at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. When I arrived at the Cedar Cultural Center spot on time at the 7 PM scheduled door time a line had already formed outside and grew longer and longer until we were finally let in at 7:45 p.m. No bother though. There was plenty to watch from the line, and plenty of speculative chatter to eavesdrop on. Several members of the suddenly clubless former First Avenue staff was inside getting things set up, working closely in volunteer capacity with Cedar Management. Former First Ave manager Steve McClellan was on hand, as was current First Ave manager Chris Olson. Olson served as a gallant doorman (the kind that opens doors for you, not checks you as you go in) in a black trench coat and black turtleneck. KARE 11 was also there with their cameras and a reporter who conducted interviews with Cedar and First Avenue representatives. I watched KARE 11 film the concession stand for a while. Why? I don’t know. I wasn’t able to watch the actual news last night because I was at the actual show.

So, there I was in line at the concessions stand and I found myself right behind Robyn Hitchcock. Shyly I introduced myself and shook his hand, and damn if that wasn’t a great consolation prize on the day not just John Kerry, but the American people lost the presidential election. Hitchcock remembered being in town around the time our late Senator Wellstone had died. I suggested he hadn’t picked the happiest day to be in Minnesota yet again, which he agreed with and broadened by referring to the American election as “a global disaster.”

Cedar Cultural Center manager Mark Johnson stepped on stage to introduce the evening’s show saying, “First Avenue is about the music and you guys. First Avenue is going to keep going.”

Jesse Denatale (http://www.jessedenatale.com ) opened the night with piano songs that made me feel like I was eavesdropping on music someone might play to themselves at night alone with just a candle and a glass of wine on the upright. The few songs I heard reminded me of a cross between Randy Newman and Tom Waits. Denatale, who opened with a song called “Soul Parade,” had a tendency to close his songs with strains from harmonica he had strapped around his neck.

Steve McClellan, who is on the board of directors of the Cedar, stepped onto the stage to introduce Robyn Hitchcock and showed optimism regarding the future of First Avenue.

Hitchcock found his way to the stage and said it was “good to be back in the Little Apple, just 8 hours south of the Peg.” He revisited his story about the giant land clams coming across the Canadian border that he’d told on a recent Minneapolis visit and said he said he planned to play “a ghost of a Halloween set.”

Hitchcock’s set was both a surprise and a delight for long time fans like myself. Opening up with “Chinese Bones” from Globe of Frogs, he couldn’t have known how well that sat with me. About the only graffiti I ever scrawled in my life was from that song. I forget what bathroom stall it was on which I scrawled somewhere in 1988, “Something Shakespeare never said was ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’” With that song as the opener I was already glad to have come. He changed a lyric to refer to opening Peter Sellers heart, singing, “just ‘cause someone is your friend doesn’t mean that they’re your size.”

One of McClellan’s children had possibly lost a stuffed elephant and was up front looking for it which led Hitchcock to remark with feigned concern that an elephant was loose in the Cedar. “Vigilance,” he said, “It might be a terrorist.” Adding a terribly ironic, “Freedom can only be achieved at its own cost.”

Hitchcock introduced “I Got the Hots for You” by saying that “music is either a form of prayer or a form of magic, saying either ‘fuck me’ or ‘fuck off.’” This song, he said, was of the first sort. An old Soft Boys song, Hitchcock said they couldn’t play it often back then because the monitors were so bad in those days. The song included a surprise new lyrics about Jimi Hendrix becoming Secretary of Defense.

Hitchcock introduced the next song saying, “Do you remember how scary Ronald Reagan seemed?”and just left it at that, leading into “President” from Element of light. I was surprised to find people laughing at the words

I know you're out there
when I hear the word "Democracy”
I reach for my headphones

as if they’d never heard the song before. Though he reached for his “cell phone” instead of his “shot gun” when he heard the word “security” the words were otherwise the originals from the 1986 song.

“1974” off A Star For Bram he introduced as a song about the bits of life that are dull that he wished to recapture.

He moved to the piano for “English Girl,” saying it was off Spooked and apologizing that he had brought absolutely no copies of the new album with him. Want Spooked? It’s one of the albums you can download for free as a member of the pay as you go music service emusic. Your monthly fee will pay for it alone. It’s not Hitchcock's best album, but it harkens back to the sparse and simple days of albums like I Often Dream of Trains. But if you are reading this you may well be a Hitchcock super-fan and realize already that all Robyn Hitchcock is essential.

He also played “The Man Who Invented Himself” at the piano. Back to the guitar for "Queen Elvis" with a harmonica break that added a little levity to a normally heartbreaking song. "Queen Elvis" was perhaps the biggest crowd pleaser of the set.

“We’re Gonna Live in the Trees,” on which he played a bit of slide guitar, was introduced with a story that included pointing out that Santa is an anagram for Satan. (I had not thought of that.) The story he told (much more brilliantly than I am now) of how people were becoming closer and closer because of the cell phone ended with the remark, “And on that day there will be no more Republicans.”

Another song from Spooked followed, “Sometimes a Blonde,” which he said would miss the Dobro sounds of David Rawlings and the vocal harmonies of Gillian Welch.

Hitchcock announced that he will be at Let it Be in Downtown Minneapolis Thursday at 5 for an in-store performance. I advise you to show up there as he hopes to announce a free coffeehouse show for tomorrow night that he says he intends to play “to help cheer people up.” HowWasTheShow will post details of that show as soon as its wherabouts are known. (Update: Robyn's free solo show has been scheduled for 8PM Thursday 11/4/04 at the Kitty Kat Club!)

“Sleeping With Your Devil Mask” was next, another “oldie” from Globe of Frogs was next. Hitchcock closed with “Full Moon in my Soul” from Spooked.

Hitchcock plays a sold out show Saturday at Schuba's in Chicago.

I was not able to stay for Jonathan Richman.

Hitchcock's Set list at the Cedar Cultural Center - 11/3/04

1. Chinese Bones
2. I Got the Hots for you
3. The President
4. I something you
5. Dark Princess (Jewels for Sophia)
6. 1974
7. English Girl
8. The Man Who Invented Himself
9. Queen Elvis
10. Gonna live in the trees
11. Blonde Sometimes
12. Sleeping with Your Devil Mask
13. Full Moon in My Soul