The Greysones, Sheffield
The last time I saw Robin in a small venue was about 20 years ago. Twenty five seemingly indifferent people turned up, poignantly he introduced The first Girl I Loved by saying “we played this at Woodstock.”
This time he all but sold out the -admittedly small – venue. First thing I noticed is that he’s lost a lot of weight and is now back to a skinny Wee Tam era profile. With his thinning, still long, white hair and thick glasses on the end of his nose, he now more than ever looks the part of a bard. His voice though, is better than ever. It was always reedy aural Marmite, but the years have put timbre into it, and his efforts at raga style melisma are more restrained,
He kicked off with a couple of unaccompanied harp tunes which included the traditional Pretty Girl Milking a Cow. The set that followed was peppered with distinctive covers that included the expected (Bob Dylan) and the less expected (Foghat and Jerry Lee Lewis). His own songs were all from his more recent solo efforts, including touching versions of Wheel of Fortune and I Always Followed Music. More than one song was about, or dedicated to, his absent wife Bina “we are playing Chesterfield in October together, though”
Apart from a few fiddle tunes and a handful of guitar ballads, most of the songs were accompanied with Irish harp. As always, between songs, Robin entertained us with stories that took in a drunken all nighter in N Ireland that saw him kicked out of the army cadets, a US televangelist’s spiel invoking a meeting with the Devil, and what cowboys were really like (“they were all called O’shaughnessy and Murphy”).
He left asking people to “like” Bina and his Facebook page, because “promoters always ask how many likes do you have on your Facebook page.”
90% over 50s who joined in on the verse of some of the old songs and 10% pierced and tattooed neu hipster folkies.
It made me think..
Two thought; I must actually get copies of his ECM albums.
Also: Robin is now 73. I first (secretively) got into the ISB when most of the other records I was buying were by the Clash, The Stranglers and The Jam. He and Mike would have been at the nadir of their popularity. At the time, I remember thinking why do i like this weird forgotten music by old men? He would have been about 33…sigh.