Robyn Hitchcock’s career, including his time with The Soft Boys, has spanned four decades. Earlier this year, Hitchcock released his self-titled 21st solo album, after having moved to Nashville in 2015. The London-born storyteller has a lot to say and has been saying it to a strong cult following since his first solo effort in 1981. Hitchcock performed at the Troubadour on Wednesday night with himself as an opener — claiming that he was too cheap to pay an opening act. His quirky, seasoned charm was immediate as he described himself as “just a creepy old Englishman and I’ve come here to entertain you as is the role of we Brits in Hollywood.”
With such a vast catalog, Hitchcock’s sets can be a mixed bag of songs that have settled nicely into their foundation over time. He opened his set with “Kingdom of Love” from 1985 and “Acid Bird” from 1981. Having been influenced by artists like Dylan, the Beatles, Syd Barrett, as well as having toured with artists like Billy Bragg, Hitchcock was sure to have his own mocking remarks on our current political state, which he snuck in there whenever he could. He joked, “I’m British so I’m under no pressure to produce happy music. The early Beatles did before they discovered drugs, given by an American, Bob Dylan. Nonetheless they were basically Brits playing American music with British accents. This is another dismal song set in London. Most of these songs were requested. I mean, I wrote them but I’m not responsible for unleashing them. Notice how people in positions of power step aside from responsibility when it suits them.”
Hitchcock’s wry, stream-of-consciousness lyricism is part of his appeal as is his position as a fervent if not cynical veteran of the music scene. His previous live band consisted of R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and Bill Reflin, but now he has some new members in tow, called the LA Squires (including Luther Russell, actor/drummer Mark Sheppard and Tony Buchen). Everyone on stage seemed to grin at each other while performing and laugh heartily at Hitchcock’s quips. Hitchcock also played “Strawberries Dress” from 2013’s “Love From London,” “Madonna of the Wasps” from 1989’s “Queen Elvis” and even Soft Boys tracks “Insanely Jealous” and “I Wanna Destroy You.”
Before beginning “Sayonara, Judge” — a song which ended up on the “Roadies” original soundtrack — he sardonically joked about destruction and “bad vibes” in a low voice then remarked, “I’m just a hippie but sadly I never found peace and here it is to prove it.” He closed his set with “Mad Shelley’s Letterbox” and then returned for a two-song encore of 1985’s “Bells of Rhymney” and a cover of The Doors’“Roadhouse Blues.”
A huge part of the Robyn Hitchcock live experience is not only seeing a witty Englishman in his mid-60s dressed in a floral shirt singing deep cuts in his signature nasal voice. It is also the experience of seeing an artist who goes beyond the guitar and paints pictures we can also listen to and teaches us that you’ve got to come from somewhere but you don’t have to go back there anymore.
Shot for Buzzbands.LA