Robyn Hitchcock/Kat Healy
Edinburgh Electric Circus, October 19
By her own admission, Kat Healy does a lot of songs about boys and the wather. ‘Also revenge songs,’ she tells us. Though singer-songwriters can often struggle as a support act, Ms. Healy benefits from the fact that a) the crowd are actually polite and receptive and b) she is very good at what she does. Songs like ‘Hey Mr. Weatherman,’ ‘No Heroes’ and ‘Sweet November’ show her to be more than just another singer-songwriter.
I’ve long admired Robyn Hitchcock on record, both solo and as a member of the Soft Boys, but tonight was the first time I’ve been privileged to see him live. In the environs of the Electric Circus, it feels intimate and yet even with just him and an acoustic guitar, he absolutely fills the place, and I don’t mean the fact it’s a very busy night.
He tears straight into ‘In The Abyss’ and ‘Wreck Of The Arthur Lee’ before telling us that ‘it’s great to be back here…in the crucible of the Incredible String Band.’
Not only is he a fantastic musician and songwriter, but he also knows how to make the audience laugh with him. Even if I pity the long-suffering soundman tonight with all of Mr. Hitchcock’s stage directions. ‘Joe,’ he announced. ‘For this one I’m going to count down from 5 – I’ll presumably stop at 1 – and at that point it’s just my guitar. . . do you have stereo? Brilliant… I want to fill their minds with geeeetarrr, so pan it around, back and forth, so it…’ [gesturing to the audience] ‘…FLOSSES THEIR BRAINS…’ (with thanks to my quick thinking friend Jared who managed to get all that down. That was just one example of many.)
With a career now taking in four decades, he has not only a large back catalogue to choose from, but also a very unique style. ‘So we get songs like the excellent ‘My Wife and my Dead Wife:’
” My wife lies down in a chair
And peels a pear
I know she’s there
I’m making coffee for two
Just me and you
But I come back in with coffee for three
Coffee for three?
My dead wife sits in a chair
Combing her hair
I know she’s there
She wanders off to the bed
Shaking her head
“Robyn,” she said
“You know I don’t take sugar!”
(I had to share that with you in case you’ve never heard the song.)
So no, we don’t get ‘I Wanna Destroy You’ or ‘So You Think You’re In Love’ but when we get ‘Museum of Sex,’ The Soft Boys’ ‘Queen of Eyes and a first set that closes with ‘Tarantula,’ who’s complaining?
He also pulls of the feat of playing entirely cover versions of The Doors’ The Crystal Ship,’ Nick Drake’s ‘The Riverman,’ Syd Barrett’s ‘Dominoes’ and Bowie’s ‘Soul Love.’ In the hands of many, you could feel short-changed. In the presence of Robyn Hitchcock, you feel privileged.