Soft Boys at Metro
April 1, 2001
BY JIM DEROGATIS POP MUSIC CRITIC
By Jim DeRogatis
Pop Music Critic
What becomes a legend most?
In the case of reunited cult heroes the Soft Boys, it wasnt the songs that made
them underground heroes--though tunes like "I Wanna Destroy You,"
"Underwater Moonlight" and "Queen of Eyes" were pleasant enough when
the quartet played a sold-out show at Metro on Friday.
Bandleader Robyn Hitchcock, guitarist Kimberly Rew, drummer Morris Windsor and bassist
Matthew Seligman seemed most inspired when they were paying homage to the 60s
influences that first motivated them to pick up their instruments two decades ago, back
when they were too-smart-for-college, too-pop-for-punk twentysomethings in Cambridge,
A chiming version of the Byrds "Bells of Rhymney" early in the set was
positively transcendent. An encore of the Velvet Undergrounds "Train
Round the Bend" was the closest these aging Boys came to full-throttle rock.
And the foursome seemed to have the most fun all night while they were barreling through
Pink Floyds "Astronomy Domine."
There were problems with this performance, just as there were with a set at the South
By Southwest Music & Media Conference two weeks ago. In an effort to harness the
on-stage volume so the vocals wouldnt be overpowered, Windsor was relegated to a
miniature cocktail-lounge drum set, and Hitchcock and Rew made do with one Fender Twin
Reverb amp a piece.
The scaled-down gear seemed to be part of an overall plan of restraint. There was
little hint of the earliest incarnation of the Soft Boys, when the two creative and fiery
guitarists often seemed to be wrestling to the death through epic six-string duels.
To be sure, there were plenty of sparks as they traded spiralling riffs, Hitchcock on
his Telecaster, and Rew with his Strat. But the raging conflagration never erupted.
On the bright side, the band didnt resort to the sort of greatest hits nostalgia
fest that so many other reunited combos have delivered. Their classic songs--which also
included "Insanely Jealous," "Human Music" and "Only the Stones
Remain"--were interspersed over the course of a nearly two-hour set with five new
tunes that have seemingly been taking shape on the road.
These numbers were in the softer, more mature mode of recent Hitchcock solo offerings.
But the band elevated them to a new level, with Rew delivering his staccato explosions and
Windsor adding expert harmonies in addition to propulsive rhythms.
Opening the show: long-running English folk-rocker John Wesley Harding, who still loves
himself a little more than is really warranted. The highlights of his set were a spirited
cover of Roky Ericksons "If You Have Ghosts," driven along with gleeful
abandon by ex-Dumptruck guitarist and Steve Wynn sideman Kirk Swan.