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Gig review

Robyn Hitchcock / Emily Swift

Mr Hitchcock is a survivor of several decades of leftfield activity, first coming to attention with The Soft Boys, going solo and playing with all kinds of different compadres including quite a few of REM (ask your gran).

He is quite the thinking 55-year-old lady’s crumpet, in his trademark polka-dot shirt and silver fox mop (BM thinks it is still all his own work, would hate to be proved wrong!). He may never have made a classic album but there are some classic and memorable tracks out there, some of which he plays tonight.

Toting a solo acoustic, sometimes semi-acoustic geetar, he promises a “night of spooky songs” given the timing (and the fancy dress madness going on outside in Sauchiehall St).

So we get ‘My Wife and My Dead Wife’, somewhat eldritch and so well delivered, we also get ‘Glass Hotel’ later in the set. BM may have missed one of his best, ‘I Often Dream of Trains’ but had to have several forays outside this room, as it did feel far too controlled and in fact downright claustrophobic. At one point (and RH had extensive and hilarious dialogue with the sound desk, “make this sepulchral” was the best line) the house lights came up – “oh God, plunge us back into darkness please” was his riposte, to as much hilarity as a seated audience could muster.

There were a lot of geetar tuning issues, his support (Emily Swift, who did a decent set from what BM could gather but again stifled by the venue) joined him for several numbers later in the set, doing second geetar and vocals). ‘Mad Shelley’s Letterbox’ was a highlight, another Syd Barrat-esque strummer, and BM has to say that this has got to be the key influence overall.

All the songs are well-constructed and in fact deserve a full band treatment, an electric blast through some of them would have cleared some cobwebs, woken a few folk up and please do this next time Robyn, the solo performances are good but really don’t always do justice… The repartee then overall was very funny, warm and sardonic by turns, BM thinks that RH realised the seating thing may have been the wrong call but he must have played a thousand crap situations, he just used his natural charm to ride over this one, a lover not a fighter.

So the set runs out and the ageing audience emote for an encore, or BM thinks that is what it is, anyways, we get three cover versions.

‘November Song’ is introduced as an Incredible String Band cover, and very good it is too – keeping with the eldritch atmospherics, such as they are in this jumped up schoolroom of a venue. Next up is ‘Just Like A Woman’, obviously the Dylan song, which to BM’s mind is now beginning to sound ridiculously dated – there are some real jarring words here, now, after all these decades… “breaks” – “just like a little girl” – Euww, not cool, and apologies to Bob, Robyn and all but just tellin it like it is… Sexism debate starts here….

And last of all, ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ by The Velvet Underground, referencing another touchstone on RH’s music, and career, a beautiful end to a somewhat bumpy evening.