PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3: 18 April 2009 - Chicago

Lisa Torem

It’s no wonder people go to great lengths to see Robyn Hitchcock in concert.

Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3
City: Chicago, IL
Venue: Logan Square Auditorium
Date: 2009-04-18

With times this lean you need more bang for your buck and what better way to spend a fistful of dollars than on the Venus 3. Sharing the stage with pop-rock’s Maharishi, Robyn Hitchcock -- the very same musical collaboration that spurred the magical Olé! Tarantula in 2006 -- each member of the trio brings a considerable C.V. to the Hitchcock camp. Bassist/guitarist Scott McCaughey has played with the Minus 5, the Baseball Project, and Young Fresh Fellows, percussionist Bill Rieflin currently plays with R.E.M and has hammered with Nine Inch Nails, while R.E.M guitarist Peter Buck, who rounds out the group, doesn’t really need an introduction.

Hitchcock, with a 30-plus year career spawning an infinite number of re-incarnations, fronted the Soft Boys, played with the Egyptians, and has alternated between solo-concept albums and collaborative recordings. The one constant has been his Mad Hatter-like affinity for titillating imagery and seductive vocals. Hitchcock is as comfortable cooing a feathery falsetto (as in tonight’s rendition of “Only The Stones Remain”, which he dedicates to 1988) as he is brandishing a spastic-rock epiphany.

Gallivanting around like a richly plumed Indian peafowl using its train to attract a harem of peahens, Hitchcock sported a black, floral-print shirt and purple trousers. Starting the set by introducing a “folk song from England” dedicated to the Obama family -- “not the lyrics, just the feel” -- he crooned quirky snippets like, “Said the courier to the corpse, I’ve got the hots for you, said the vicar to the waitress, best thing about you is your waist, I’ve got the hots for you…” A wound-up woman -- with black-tee and raven hair – stepped to the stage whirling like a feverish go-go girl to the beat, gazing at the musicians on stage.

But she’s not the only fan who trolls for Hitchcock’s gaze. Others grab planes, trains, and automobiles to catch his famed act. One fugitive mom said that she left her “albatross husband” along with the kids and a sink full of dishes and drove in from suburban Munster (even if it meant parking in a really creepy neighborhood) just to see Hitchcock live. A married couple flew in from Minneapolis to catch the Chicago show before flying back to see his set in their hometown the following evening. Self-described as “Hitchcock groupies,” the husband described Hitchcock as a “really grand man.” They should know -- this was their 16th time seeing him live.

It’s no wonder people go to great lengths to see Robyn Hitchcock in concert. Hitchcock’s lovely melodies -- sitting tonight on top of tempo shifts courtesy of Bill Rieflin -- flow like libations at your local brewery. Take “Saturday Groovers”, for example, a bouncy, heady stroll that would quench anybody’s thirst for pure pop. Thunderous rolls of rhythm paired with time-suspended fuzz bass embody “Let’s Feel The Beat”, while twelve-string ruminations by Buck and torrid ostinatos by McCaughey imbue “What You Is”.

Hitchcock gave a nostalgic nod to “I Often Dream of Trains”, by declaring, “rock ‘n’ roll began in the United States,” before cradling his cobalt blue electric guitar and eliciting a poignant solo while delivering this haunting rendition. He prefaced the ballad, “Falling” by saying, “if we remember things in reverse order, sometimes they’re fantastic.” Lush harmonies fleshed out the chorus, as the infectious guitar hooks pulsing between Buck and Hitchcock dominated. “Up To Our Nex” -- recently seen in the film Rachel Getting Married -- combined breathy vocals with verve. Hitchcock’s wistful wit continued, “Let us rock into the erotic psychosis ‘cause it’s a comfort zone,” he whispered before “Creeped Out, American Girl.”

But for those who have seen him 16 times before, what’s new about tonight? Hitchcock’s gratefulness that we have a new “prez,” a transcendental flow evidenced by Hitchcock’s pressed palms squeezed together as he utters, “Shakti om,” and Buck’s intermittent east-Indian guitar phrasings. There’s also the alchemy crystallizing between Hitchcock and the Venus 3, all smiling in absolute rhapsodic joy as they calculate their strategy between numbers, like the Chicago Bears huddled in the steamy outfield.

While there were no references to necrophiliacs (“My Wife And My Dead Wife”) or gender-bending (“Sometimes I Wish I Was A Pretty Girl”) as in previous concerts, the three-plus hours of pure musical entertainment exceeded any recession special. If you missed the show, just hop on a plane and catch the next one. You won’t be alone.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.