Henk Tour (1986-1987)

first published: 07-09-98 / last update 22-10-04


This tour lasted from april 1986 up until june 1987, but for some reason almost nothing from the 1987 leg of the tour is circulating! The tour brought them to the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, West-Germany, France, Finland, Greece and Sweden. After the departure of Michiel Peters two new band members were introduced: Joke Gereats on double bass and vocals and Petra Lugtenburg on vocals and keyboards. The tour was based on the very nice Henk album. It sounds to me a lot like a 'constructed' album, which features a lot of overdubs and edits of different takes. To bring albums like this to the stage can be difficult, but apparently the Nits didn't have big problems with this, all the songs sound fresh and very good. After Michiel left there were concerns that it would be too boring just to have Henk sing, but as we know now this proved to be absolutely not the case. Michiel's subtle songwriting and typical guitar playing and singing are missed, but this tour proved the Nits still had the right to exist! For me this tour is definitely the beginning of the typical Nits sound. Subtle, yet powerful and surprises are always close by.


This version of the Nits only existed for this tour. After Michiel had left in 1985 they didn't replace him with a new guitar player. Instead of that Henk left his keyboards behind and played guitar. For the first time since 1981 they got a fulltime bassplayer: Joke Geraerts, who would remain with the band until 1989. Petra Lugtenburg came in to do vocals and keyboards, she would only be a Nit during this tour. I don't know how much keyboards she played, I'm quite sure that the majority was Robert Jan. It appears she wasn't present at every concert of the tour (probably she had to perform with her own band, Cloud 9). Sometimes they would play without her. Then Robert Jan and Joke covered her keyboard and vocal parts. Both women had also played and/or sang on the album. These were important changes for the band. No Michiel meant that Henk had to sing lead on all songs and two new female bandmembers resulted in a completely new vocal sound for the band.

the nits in 1986 (from the Nits book): Rob, Petra, Henk, Robert Jan, Joke

Henk Hofstede: vocals, guitar, banjo
Rob Kloet: drums, percussion
Robert Jan Stips: keyboards, backing vocals
Petra Lugtenburg: vocals, keyboards
Joke Geraets: standing and electric bass, vocals


I have no details about the stage setup and how the band was positioned.


The most current album, Henk, was almost completely played live at a lot of concerts. Also some older songs were part of the setlist. Two b-sides: Potato Eaters and Nickel And Wood were also played. One unreleased song (then) was played: House On House. Several of the songs that are in the following list I have not heard myself on tapes, but they come from Walter Schäppi's incredibly detailed Nits Overview.

Overview of all the (known) songs played:

5 Hammering Men

According to Walter Schäppi's Nits Overview this song was played in Zürich, in a medley with Holiday On Ice.

Acres Of Tintoretto

This was one of the highlights of the tour. The music of this version was far removed from the original Kilo version. For that album they redid an earlier uptempo demo version to produce the very beautiful jazzy version we now know. At the Kilo and Adieu tours they play a version that actually was close to the original demo of the song. The Henk tour version was yet another arrangement, still uptempo, but much more upbeat and poppy then in the previous two tours.  I think it sounds a bit like magic of lassie II. The playing was very tight and concentrated on Henk's rhythm guitar. Robert Jan inserted some very suspensive keyboard sounds throughout the song. The bass and drums provided a strong groove. Petra sang backing vocals. Robert Jan also played a carnival-like solo that was slightly different each time. Near the ending the singing sounded very cool and the actual ending itself was some dramatic echo-y guitar chords over the suspense keyboard sounds. 

Adieu, Sweet Bahnhof

This started out with percussion and guitar. Soon the keyboard with an accordion sound and the standing bass joined. During the singing parts Robert Jan played piano. He also used an organ in the song. Petra replaced Michiel's backing vocals in the chorus. The song was played in the usual straightforward way.

Bike In Head

This was more or less played as on the album, only it lasted somewhat longer. That was mainly because of the longer intro, which was played close to the version on Urk with the intro that went from chaotic to structured. The song is about riding a bike in Amsterdam along the Zoo, Artis, and you just heard they bought a new baby elephant. Henk usually told this story and on the part of the elephant Robert Jan made a loud trumpet sound (with a real trumpet, not a synth!).The song featured the usual instruments: bike bell samples, various melodies, cool drumming and guitar. The wild and more quiet parts alternated all the time and it also had the 'chaos break' in the middle. Petra provided backing vocals on the same spots as on the album (all the 'bike in head' and the 'can't you hear' parts). The ending was very wild, with some apparently random drumming. A distorted 'bike in head' sample finished the song.


This was played slightly different from the album version. It sounded very similar to the version that ended up on Urk a couple of years later. Henk started the song alone on guitar and vocals. After a short time Robert Jan introduced the synth sounds. The 'it makes no difference' part was played with an orchestral string backing. After this the whole band entered and the song was played not too different from the album version. It ended with a 'classical' ending, followed by a short reprise of a few bars. This song usually opened the concerts. A live recording of this song was put on the b-side of the Cabins single.


This was played rather similar to the album version. It had the 'trombone' sound, echo-y percussion, banjo and suspenseful synth sounds. Petra sang backing vocals. The music was rather interesting, especially in the instrumental parts, The ending was just Henk's banjo and Joke's standing bass. This instrument gave the song its unique sound. The song is about childhood memories. Henk described it as climbing into a high and looking down at the past. He also mentioned his childhood friend Peter, who became an architect.


This song was played during the encores every now and then. It was played in more or less as the version later released on Urk.

Erom On

Henk often explained this song during the tour. It's about a girl who tells her ex-boyfriend 'no more', but because she doesn't want to hurt his feelings too much she says it backwards: 'erom on'. The reaction of the boy is that he now does everything backwards to win her back again. This song is one of my least favorites from the Henk album, it sounds rather messy in my opinion. The live version however is spectacular and very good! This is mainly because this song sounded much tighter with Joke's pronounced bass guitar, which is mostly missing from the studio version. Also the live 'reverse' drumming of Rob was great. Robert Jan inserted all kinds of strange sound effects. Henk's rhythm guitar was also very prominent and he sang with a slightly distorted voice. Petra sang some backing vocals. The music got real wild and it featured some nice sounds in the instrumental end part.

Holiday On Ice

According to Walter Schäppi's Nits Overview this song was played in Zürich, in a medley with 5 Hammering Men.

Home Before Dark

During this tour this classic Nits tune was still very fresh and remained close to the album version with the added bonus of Joke's standing bass. The song is about a gas station attendant (in the USA this time around) who waits for his idol (this tour it was Joni Mitchell). She never comes by and he remains lonely. Rob started playing some 'hollow', ticking percussion. The guitar and the bass entered. Robert Jan played the main melodies using a bright marimba like sound. Petra provided some very nice backing vocals at selected spots. Later Robert Jan switched to more 'airy' synth sounds, but only for the instrumental part.

House On House

This song was unreleased at the time of the Henk tour. It can be found on the 1995 rarities album Quest in a version recorded during the summer of 1987. That studio version actually isn't very different from the live version of this tour. According to Henk the song is about 'when your girlfriend decides to build a house on top of your own house.' The intro was bass and drums. After a while Robert Jan played the main synth melody. The song itself was rather rhythmic with plenty of synthesizer stuff. The 'little boy fall down' part featured nice descending keyboard melodies and some 'apocalyptical' sounds. There were female backing vocals, but I can't make out if it was Joke or Petra (or both) who sang.


This wasn't played at all concerts, but it was one of the last encores when it was played. A slow cymbal rhythm was played by Rob, over which Robert Jan could play the great piano melodies of this song. After the vocals started Robert Jan also provided some keyboard effects. For a large part of the song Henk sang the lead vocals together with Petra, which sounded beautiful. The 'I want to be alone' part was just vocals and piano, but from the 'cover up slowly' part the percussion returned, but Rob also started drumming. After this an a capella part was sung, again followed by return of the full band. Joke didn't have to play a lot of bass in this song! 


This song was played in the 'classic' version, starting with the orchestral sound and somewhat later the slow, warm groove with the exotic piano melodies. Joke played standing bass. Petra sang backing vocals in the Italian parts, highlighting the word 'Nescio' every time Henk sang it. She sang lead vocals in the 'phone rings' part up until the 'I don't know' part. The song ended with the regular, fast acoustic guitar-heavy finale.

Nickel And Wood

This b-side from the Bild Am Sonntag single was played in Amsterdam and probably at a few other shows as well. It certainly is one of the most rare songs from this tour.

Pillow Talk

Henk decribed this song as 'a lullaby for when Doris Day and Paul Simon go to sleep.' This nice little song was started with bass, percussion and the very typical 'oh' samples. Later a marimba keyboard sound played the main melody and Henk played guitar. At the appropriate spots some short percussion rumbles were played. Robert Jan varied the 'oh' sample melodies throughout the song and Joke played the standing bass. Petra sang backing vocals in the chorus. It was played rather similar to the album version. It looked as though this song could retire after this tour, but for some reason it was picked up again almost 10 years later for the Nest Tour.

Port Of Amsterdam

This song would definitely be a concert favorite in the following years, because of it's tendency to have some weird stuff happening during it. This tour the song was still played rather regular, not too different from the album version. It's a song about leaving and saying good-bye (by Danish sailors..), according to Henk. The intro was just percussion and guitar. Henk started singing the vocals and soon Robert Jan joined with the familiar synth melodies. These were not as insane as they sometimes would be in later years, but they still sounded very nice. Henk's voice was distorted at several points. The song varied between the loud and more quiet parts. In the loud parts Joke and Rob played a strong groove, joined by the men of the band singing the 'ja-ja-ja-ja' vocals. This version of the song was a little bit more 'static' than in the following years, but it certainly was already very impressive.

The Potato Eaters

Henk told each time before this song that a friend of theirs from Texas wrote this song. He came to Amsterdam each year to see the Nits and to go to the Van Gogh museum, where his favorite painting was The Potato Eaters (De Aardappeleters). This is a nice story but I'm quite sure the Nits wrote this song themselves! The song was released as a b-side to the 'Sleep (What Happens To Your Eyes)' single and can also be found on Quest, but the live version of this song blew away the original studio version. That version is short and somewhat cold sounding, but in concert this song sounded powerful and alive. One of the main reasons for this was Henk's banjo playing, augmented by Robert Jan's synth banjo. The bass playing was kept rather simple, but the drumming provided a weird rhythm. The instrumental intro was rather long and the playing became increasingly faster as it progressed. To support the vocal sections Robert Jan used a slow orchestral sound. Female backing vocals were also part of this, I think both women sang on this song. Rob started a kick drum beat late into the song. Many nice breaks were played and an extra vocal part was also introduced, the 'who did? - you did!' lines. The 'you did!' part of this featured a loud echo. Also nice to mention is the 'hee-haw' shout Henk made at the Luik/Liège performance!

Red Tape

This song was often the final song of a concert, but not always. Rob started the song with a tight rhythm and loud percussion sounds and kept doing this throughout the song. Robert Jan strated playing the synth, using a sound that wouldn't have sounded out of place on the Work album from which this song comes. Henk played the acoustic guitar. The bass also entered and slowly the song transformed towards red tape. Petra sang backing vocals. Multiple keyboard sounds can be heard in the song, including heavy orchestra and brighter sounds. The 'fall' break was very echo-y. All in all this version was somewhat more heavy than usual.

The Singing Telegram

After hearing the version on Quest of this song I always am somewhat disappointed at the original Henk album version, which fades out after just 2 minutes! Luckily live versions of this song always were the longer version. Henk started it on guitar and Rob inserted some 'hollow' sounding percussion. After this heavy synth sounds were played, followed by the bass and the vocals. Joke's driving bass line is one of the highlights of this song and lifts up above the studio arrangement. Various keyboard melodies were played throughout the song. The instrumental breaks were very synth-heavy. Petra sang backing vocals. Some extra lyrics were sung in this version of the song:

in a library where no-one is talking
doesn't matter where you are

Concerning the short version of this song on the album, Suonna posted the following to the Nits Mailing List:
'In the files you wonder why the lp version of "Telegram" is so short. A Finnish journalist from Rumba mag asked this one from Henk way back in '80s. Henk said it was intentional -- the band thought that the full length recorded version was a bit too sugary: enter fade out. "When the fade out comes, the listener will think 'what the hell, I liked it pretty much and now it already stopped'..." Henk explained and laughed.'

Sketches Of Spain

This song was of course also part of the setlist. It was played in a rather regular fashion. It started with the famous bass line, elegant percussion and some synth touches. The vocals were accompanied by melodic keyboard lines. At various points in the show Petra provided backing vocals. The first half of the long instrumental part was rather heavy sounding with loud rumbling drums. The second half was more subtle with some guitar in it. After they returned to the song and finished it up.

Sleep (What Happens To Your Eyes)

This song was a modern version of Goethe's famous poem 'Erlkönig' about a father and his very ill son who try to get to a place where has son can be treated. They ride very fast on a horse, but an evil spirit (the Erlkönig) and his helpers try to lure the boy into the woods to die. The song used translations and original german quotes from the poem. The text of the poem can be found on the nearly official homepage. I remembered this poem from my German lessons in school when I first heard this song, so that was very nice. Unfortunately I'm not a big fan of the song, although the live version I like a bit more. The song's not bad, but definately not one of my favorites, I can't really say why. At the concerts it was played similar to the album. It started with the very 'techno' sounding synth and some echo-y percussion. Henk started singing and playing the guitar. Petra sang the german lyrics, as she did on the album. The bass and drums entered late into the song, as well as some orchestral keyboard sounds. The 'du liebest Kind, komm geh mit mir' part was sung by both Petra and Joke. The ending featured some quite dramatic guitar playing.

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1750-1832)

Tons Of Ink

This song started out with 'yo-oh-oh' chants, which went from loud to soft volume. Henk played a guitar backing top this. After a while the sound became loud again and the band played in full force. While Henk sang the lead vocals the rest of the band continued the 'yo-oh-oh' chants. Petra also provided other backing vocals. This all was quite spectacular. In the second half of the song the music got a bit more fluent and featured the main melody on guitar and orchestral keyboard in the instrumental part. Joke's bass parts gave it a more solid form then earlier versions. For the last chorus and verse the 'yo-oh-oh's' returned. The instrumental ending didn't provide sing-a-long possibilities as on the Urk album.

A Touch Of Henry Moore

This great Nits classic started with drums and percussion sounds. Robert Jan's synth sounds transformed slowly into the main melody. The bass and vocals entered and the song was on its way. Petra sang the 'sometimes' and other backing vocals. She sang lead on the 'monday in a slow train' part. Robert Jan also sang on some of the 'sometimes' parts. In the instrumental middle part the guitar was very prominent. A break with some distorted handlaps, percussion and groovy bass sounded really cool. No chorus was sung, as with most versions of this song.

Tutti Ragazzi

This was played regularly during the encores. The music was energetic, very fast and heavy sounding. Before the first verse there was some repeated 'tutti ragazzi' singing by several band members. After this the main structure of the song followed the original, but with a lot of extra weirdness, especially in the instrumental parts and near the ending. Petra sang backing vocals.

Typist Of Candy

A song about a typist who has a backbone of candy. In the summer the candy melted and she disappeared in a big city. Henk started the song on guitar and vocals. He used some reverb on his guitar giving. Guitar and echo-y vocals made up the first verse of the song, after this the rest of the band entered. Robert Jan played piano. Petra sang some powerful backing vocals in the chorus. In the instrumental part Robert Jan used trumpet and orchestral sounds for the melodies. He also inserted some typewriter sounds in the song, but not as much as he would during the Nest tour. The ending of the song was instrumental and sounded much more like the alternate version that's on Quest than the Henk album version. The music in this part was wilder and it included a 'trumpet' solo.

Under A Canoe

According to Henk this song is about swimming under a canoe, in which your girlfriend is sitting while she is taking pictures of fishes. This song was played very similar to the version that's on Urk. Henk started it with some sharp 'I' vocals over a slow bass and drums rhythm. He sang the lyrics with a slightly distorted voice. In the 'a shirt is waving in the meadow' part Robert Jan inserted the choir sounds, which actually is Joke's voice sampled many times, while Joke also sang the vocals live and Petra also contributed to these vocals. Later Robert Jan also used a trumpet-like sound. Very atmospheric and experimental!

The Vermillion Pencil

This song usually closed the main set of the concerts. Rob started the song with some hard cymbal work, soon joined by Robert Jan's repetetive intro noise. This could last quite some time, but after a while also featured Petra's keyboard and Henk's guitar. The full band started playing for the main part of the song, which turned into a rather loud and fast version. Some female backing vocals were sung. There definitely was a lot of piano action and it had some nice instrumental parts. The 'scottish' ending was played with Robert Jan using an organ sound.

Walter And Conny

This was played regularly during the encores in an arrangement similar to the released version.

Woman Cactus

This song about Picasso was usually home to the band introductions over the extended instrumental intro. It was played in the regular version with fast drums, tight bass, guitar and bell synths. Henk had a delayed echo on his voice that repeated the full sentence he sang. Plenty keyboard action was happening in various parts. It also included the weird, cool break with Henk's high vocals. A fierce return to the song after this went on for a while before it ended.