Strangely, the last time I saw Robyn Hitchcock was the day after the 2004 presidential election, and this concert came a day after the 2006 mid-term election. At that concert in 2004 (a solo acoustic show at Schubas), the political mood was grim. Hitchcock offered condolences to his American audience and performed his song that proclaims: “Rumsfeld is the anti-Christ.”
Last night, Hitchcock arrived in Chicago in a more celebratory political mood, noting that the “occupation” was coming to an end, and he reprised the song about Rumsfeld and the Bushies. As much as I like seeing Hitchcock perform acoustic shows, it was good to see him with a band for a change. And how cool to see Peter Buck of R.E.M. and Scott McCaughey of the Minus 5 playing with him. Buck could be doing pretty much anything he wants, but he obviously is having fun working as a guitar sideman for one of his friends.
The songs off the new album, “Ole! Tarantula,” sounded good, making me think that perhaps I’ve underestimated how strong this record is. I like it, but haven’t listened to it that much. The opening track, “Adventure Rocket Ship,” was also the night’s opener. Another highlight was Hitchcock’s long-winded introduction to “(A Man’s Gotta Know His Limitations) Briggs,” describing that song’s origins in the “Dirty Harry” film “Magnum Force.” Somehow, I get the feeling that this drawn-out monologue won’t make it into the eventual WXRT broadcast of the concert.
The concert also featured several terrific Hitchcock oldies, including “The Queen of Eyes,” “Madonna of the Wasps,” “Chinese Bones,” “If You Were a Priest” and “Somewhere Apart.” For their encore, Hitchcock and the Venus 3 played “Eight Miles High,” with climaxed with a seering double guitar solo, and then the Soft Boys’ “I Wanna Destroy You.”
The opening act, Mark Pickerel, has a decent album out on Bloodshot Records. His set was pretty good, though a little snoozy. I think I’d enjoy his music more with a full band.