Bluegrass Hitchcock

Robyn Hitchcock
Bluebird Cafe, Nashville, TN
Saturday, October 17, 2009

There was a real sense of curiosity as people were waiting in line to get into the Bluebird on a chilly Saturday night. The show had seemed to pop up out of nowhere, and most of the fans in line were saying they had just found out about it in the last couple of days. Additionally, the evening was billed as "Robyn Hitchcock Presents," so everyone was wondering exactly what that meant. But the fact that no one knew quite what to expect certainly didn't keep anyone away. The place was absolutely packed with a bizarre mix of hardcore fans and curious tourists who just wanted to see the legendary venue, and if you didn't have reservations you were out of luck.

I was almost one of those unfortunate souls that didn't get in. By the grace of God, I was in line in front of someone who had made reservation for two, and their friend didn't show up. So instead of heading home early, cold and disappointed, I found myself at a table right in front of the stage, for what ended up being the most unique Robyn Hitchcock show I've seen.

After starting the show with a five song solo set that included "The Museum of Sex," "I Often Dream Of Trains," and a cover of Gillian Welch's "Elvis Presley Blues," Robyn welcomed
Abigail Washburn and Rayna Gellert to the stage. With accompaniment on banjo and fiddle respectively, they tore into a mind blowing bluegrass version of The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows." At that point they could have said goodnight and left the stage, and I still would have felt like the night was worth twice the fifteen dollar cover. But they played for another hour, alternating between Robyn's vast catalog and traditional folk songs and murder ballads that featured Washburn and Gellert on vocals. The show had a somewhat loose feeling, like you were watching friends jamming in someone's basement, but it also had that sense of fun that you get from seeing something completely out of the ordinary. Though Hitchcock has had a few songs throughout his career with a somewhat country feel, hearing his quirky pop played with a bluegrass tinge was a treat. Washburn and Gellert seemed to be having a great time as well, especially during Hitchcock's hilariously surreal between song banter, this time featuring recurring themes of airline announcements and "sucky olives."

For the encore, Robyn returned to the stage alone for absolutely beautiful renditions of The Door's "The Crystal Ship" and Nick Drake's "River Man" before inviting the gals back onstage for a rousing stomp through "Ye Sleeping Knights Of Jesus," a song that was tailor made for the evening's down home, folksy feel. As his guests left the stage, he began a return trip to the Jim Morrison catalog, singing "The End" in its entirety, complete with the Oedipal monologue.

Hitchcock has played the Bluebird several times before, and after recording Spooked here with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, he's obviously developed a real affinity for Nashville. But it's a safe bet to say that Saturday night was an experience unlike any of the shows he's played here before, or anywhere else for that matter.

Robyn Hitchcock - "The Ghost In You (Live)" (mp3)

To see the complete setlist, check out Miles' review at
Reading Pronounciation. Photo by John Brassil - note: the photo is from a show at the Bluebird five years ago, but oddly enough, Robyn was wearing the same shirt Saturday night.


Thanks for the link to my review! I've been at every Robyn Hitchcock show here since 1990 - except for the second, separate-admission set at the Bluebird on that May 1990 evening - and yup, this one wasn't like any of the others, not even close.
Please tell me somebody was recording it! I need it!
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