I saw Robyn Hitchcock and Nick Lowe at the Manhattan Center last night. I met up with a friend and colleague of mine and her husband before the show at Tir Na Nog’s, which proved to be a great find—there aren’t too many great restaurants right around Penn Station. After some chaos with line management (not to mention that you need to take the elevator to the 7th floor to get to the Grand Ballroom—is that a fire hazard?), we got into the venue, and were surprised that there were assigned seats. After having some cabernet, I left my friends to return to my own seat.
Both sets were purely acoustic, and both performers are great performers. They keep the show interesting with their patter, and the songs they played were great. Robyn Hitchcock came on first. I have to admit that I do not know Robyn Hitchcock’s catalog of music that well—the couple of albums I do know I absolutely love. With a lot of songs I often find the music moves me more than the lyrics, but Robyn Hitchcock is a great lyricist, so I find the reverse is true with him (not to slight the music, which is also excellent). He chattered about Ghandi sleeping with a Fender Telocaster (which he never touched—he just kept it there to prove he was above temptation), and how tuning a guitar is representative of “consensus”—there are 3 strings that need to be tuned. He is tuning 2 of those. The third one is probably already in tune, but he needs to coordinate it with the other two. A sort of metaphor for “consensus” on the Iraq war, he noted. He played for about 50 minutes, and ended with a song he was asked to write for the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights document writing, which was amazing (though he couldn’t understand why they didn’t ask David Crosby instead of him).
Nick Lowe came on next. He was suffering from a throat infection that he “smuggled in” from the UK, and had a sort of pride in the fact that American medicines for this sort of thing just could not take it down. This was by way of apology for the fact that he would probably hit some strange notes that evening, and we would probably be able to pick them out.
Nick is releasing a new album, and re-releasing much of his old stuff as well, hence the tour. The show was a little over an hour. He didn’t play too many new songs—he noted that when people pay good money to see a show, and the performer says “We’re going to perform a new song”, the audience tends to fall into two camps. The first camp says, “Bring it on, we can’t get enough of it,” the second camp says, “How long will this take?” Nick confessed to being one of the second camp, and assured the “second-campers” in the audience that it wouldn’t take long at all. The new song was called, “I Read a Lot,” and was more in the country style that Nick seems to prefer on his later albums. I had been hoping he would play my two favorite songs by him—“Cruel to be Kind,” and “All Men are Liars,” and he delighted me by playing both.
Here is the set list, not necessarily in perfect order. If I’m missing songs (and I feel like I am), feel free to correct me if you’re reading this and attended the show:
What’s Shakin’ on the Hill
Long Limbed Girl
All Men are Liars
I Trained Her to Love Me
When I Write the Book
Lately I’ve Let Things Slide
Has She Got a Friend?
I Read a Lot
Cruel to be Kind
Hope For Us All
Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
I Live on a Battlefield
Shelley My Love
Man That I’ve Become
I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock ‘n’ Roll
What’s So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding?