Omsk Tour (1983)

first published: 15-07-98 / last update 08-02-05


This tour followed the very successful Omsk album and their first top 10 hit: Nescio. This meant a lot of new fans first got the chance to see the nits play live. The much more acoustic and natural sound of the album (compared to earlier albums) was only partly brought to the stage. In a lot of songs they still sounded much like the previous tours, but the seeds for the more acoustic and melodic band they would become a few years later were definitely planted with this tour. The Nits visited the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland, France and Great Britain this time. They toured between January and October of 1983. The next month they would already be touring with their new album Kilo, but that was more or less a continuation of this tour with a few changes in the setlist. Also noteworthy is that this was the first tour with Robert Jan as an official band member. After being a temporary replacement during the Work tour, he became an official Nit during the recording of the Omsk album.


This was the second tour in this line-up. This time Robert Jan had become a full-time band member. On the previous tour he was a last minute replacement for bassist Alex Roelofs. This time Robert Jan concentrated more on melodies, but his keyboard bass was still very much present.

Henk Hofstede: vocals, keyboards, guitar, lyra, marimba
Michiel Peters: vocals, guitar, bass, trumpet, keyboards, lyra, marimba
Rob Kloet: drums, vocals
Robert Jan Stips: keyboards, synth-bass, marimba, vocals, trumpet


As with all the early tours the stage setup was rather simple. A backdrop with the album cover was probably used. Some photos of a concert from 1983 can be found in the photo section (click on the link in the left frame).


As can be expected, most songs came from the most recent Omsk album, but far from all Omsk songs were played. The setlist concentrated most on the more up tempo and/or spectacular songs of the album, while the more subtle tunes were mostly ignored. Two Omsk b-sides (man of straw and clean shirt in Paris) and two songs (wake up and how the west got lost) from Robert Jan's solo album were played . Plenty of songs from previous albums were also played. There used to be only festival or incomplete recordings from this tour, but now there are some Nits Archive tapes that clear up several things. This tour marked the live debut of two nits classics: nescio and a touch of henry moore.

Overview of all the (known) songs played:

Clean shirt in Paris

This beautiful song was the b-side on the vermilion pencil single and can also be found as a bonus track on the Omsk cd. I really like this song a lot. It foreshadows the French atmosphere of adieu, sweet bahnof with its accordion sound. That typical, percussive repetitive sound that continues throughout the song really works well with the song. Live it was one of the most subtle songs they played. The song was the first encore at the Roskilde festival concert and it was introduced by Henk as a song about 'Grace Jones in Paris who puts on a new shirt'. Hmmm, I didn't get that myself from the lyrics.. The song was played very similar to the album version with the repetitive sound, the bell and accordion synth sounds and the 'French' guitar playing. Michiel provided backing vocals. The musicianship on this performance was excellent, luckily there are now more version available, although they're all rather similar.

Empty room

This was a bit strange. The actual song wasn't played too different from the album version, but at the Roskilde concert the echo-y guitar-only intro segued out of hobbyland, but after about half a minute the bass-line to walter and conny started. The guitar line was continued for a while over the walter and conny bass, but soon it disappeared and W&C was played. Further on in the set the intro was played again and this time it was followed by the complete song. This song was even wilder live than on the Work album, with plenty guitar, fast drumming and long low synth bass. Henk's enthusiastic singing made it complete. The second half of the song was mostly instrumental. A guitar solo over the piano melody was played. The very loud end part featured a keyboard solo.


This tour's version sounded very different than in earlier tours. It started out with the marimba, joined by the synth. After this the full band started and instead of the many synth lines of the original, these were now played on the piano. The percussion was much subtler as well. The song sounded like it could have been on Omsk with this much warmer sound. Robert Jan played many slightly different melodies on the piano and the marimba was often heard again as well. In the instrumental part some synth lines were played as well. Robert Jan and Michiel provided backing vocals. The long instrumental outro featured a pronounced synth bass.


The piano started out this song, accompanied by heavy synth chords. The melody was played on the guitar and some more heavy synth sounds brought the song to the vocal part. Michiel sang lead vocals. The 'my world' and 'in my own time' vocals were done by both Michiel and Henk. For the verses the piano melody was different, but in the 'my world' parts it returned to the same one as in the intro. The song segued into the guitar intro of empty room.

How the west got lost

In the period 1981-1985 this Stips b-side was a regular song in the encores. The cowboy like instrumental started out with the drums, after a while joined by synth bass and the guitar melody. The melody was played a few times, accompanied by Robert Jan who used several sounds for this. At one point Michiel started to play more rhythm guitar, so Robert Jan could play the melodies on his own. This version sounded a lot smoother than it did in the previous tour.


This actually isn't a song. Before the Hilversum radio performance the presenter announced the band, while the nits made some musical sounds behind this. Nothing special.

the Lodger

This song opened the Roskilde concert and I guess it was at normal concerts also the opener. It was played similar to the album version, only heavier. Actually it was performed almost exactly as on the previous Work tour. The intro had tight drumming and piano crashes. After this some spooky keyboard sounds started and finally Henk sang the lyrics. The bass sounds real. So it is quite possible that Michiel played a bass guitar during this song. In the instrumental part more piano crashes and melodies were played.

Man of straw

The b-side to the nescio single and a bonus track on the Omsk cd. The studio version comes over to me as a bit messy, but that fits the song rather well. The live version was a little more tightly played. Over the bouncy beat and the heavy keyboard bass Michiel played a 'dirty' guitar sound. He also sang lead vocals, while Henk provided backing vocals. Robert Jan and Henk provided keyboard touches, melodies and sound effects throughout the song. A rather wild guitar solo was played before a couple of 'man of straw' vocals ended the song.


This was the real breakthrough of the Nits in the Netherlands. Up to date it is still their biggest hit, reaching no. 8 in the top 40. Even in the Dutch mountains didn't reach this. This was also the song that probably made a lot of people come to see the nits play live. The song itself is a sequel to the Dutch book 'de uitvreter' by the writer Nescio. Nescio is Latin for 'I don't know.' Uitvreter is a Dutch word for someone who lives on other people's money. The main character from the book is called Japi and he is the uitvreter. At the end of the book he commits suicide by jumping of a bridge. Henk continued the song by having Japi swim to Italy and calling Nescio, the writer, to tell him he is happy in the Italian paradise. The song was played in the arrangement it was to be played at most of the later tours. As on the Urk version the song started out with just piano and vocals with some of the 'I jumped of a bridge' vocals. At the 'nobody's knocking' some knocking sounds can be heard.. After a while the orchestral sound started and the normal nescio started with the Italian and English sections. To me the bass sounds like it was played on a bass guitar, probably by Michiel. This left the acoustic guitar parts for Henk. Robert Jan's piano melodies were quite impressive, but didn't deviate too much from the album version. Michiel provided a few backing vocals, but not much. The ending consisted of fast acoustic guitar playing and some of the wilder piano melodies.

Nescio (J.H.F. Grönloh, 1882-1961)

New flat

The song is driven by the fast drums and the rhythm guitar. Henk's vocals were slightly distorted. After the first verse the song stopped, but after a few seconds it returned. Slow and low keyboard and guitar chords and more drum patterns were part of the rest of the song. Also some sci-fi sound effects were played. The instrumental drum break consisted of a fast and repetitive handclap sound, augmented by heavy guitar power chords. These guitar chords were louder than the ones that are on the original version, but less to the front as the previous tour's version. After this the song returned to the vocal part, but the guitar remained very present for the rest of the song.

Office at night

Some 'movie-like' piano playing and strange, ambient sound effects were played, but a loud 'OH!' by Henk really started this song. It had a heavy synth bass, loud drums and piano touches. The 'and the light falls' parts were sung by Michiel with a lot of echo and it was accompanied by the piano. After this Michiel played some spooky stuff on a trumpet with strong drums and a very heavy synth bass in the background. The song ended with Henk shouting the word 'OH!' again.

Red tape

At the Work tour this song was played almost as a copy of the album version, but this time around they changed the arrangement. A keyboard bass, synth effects, tight drumming and a strange little piano solo started out the song. After this the familiar melody was played and Henk began singing. The whole sound was very jumpy, especially the piano parts and much more jazzy than the original. On the 'fall' lyrics Henk's voice was distorted and an echo was added. Michiel provided backing vocals. His guitar solo was exactly the same as on the album. A nice instrumental part was present, with guitar and a piano solo over a drums and synth backing. After one last chorus the song ended similar to the album version.

Slip of the tongue

The piano and a sleazy keyboard sound started this song. The drums soon joined. The main melody was played using a real marimba, which made this version very cool and happy sounding. The sleazy keyboard sounds continued in the background. Henk started singing the vocals. The 'be silent' parts were sung both by Henk and Michiel. After the vocal part a harpsichord was played for a short time, but then the very strong guitar solo by Michiel started. The second half of the song was mostly instrumental and featured a long, slow synth solo over a very jazzy backing . The intensity and speed varied throughout the instrumental part. After the synth solo the jazzy music continued and some vocals were sung over it. With the singing also more guitar touches were added. A very dramatic ending concluded this great version of this song. Walter Schäppi thinks that there was a real trumpet in this song, played by Robert Jan.

Spirits awake

This started out with ticking percussion and a rhythmic piano melody. After a while a sparse synth bass and the kick drum entered. When Michiel began singing a higher synth sound was also played. In the background the piano changed from the rhythmic melody to a more subtle kind of music. The line 'spirits awake' had a lot of echo on the vocal. In the instrumental parts the piano returned to the intro, but with added sound effects. Henk sang a few backing vocals. The 'Did you see the garden girls go by?' part featured more echoes and sound effects. This very subtle performance ended with just the ticking percussion.

Suddenly I met your face

Another Work song. This featured a very hyperactive synth sound and a weird drum rhythm. The piano provided the main melody. Henk sang lead vocals, while Michiel provided the background vocals. After a while a piano crashes and a jazzy part started. A trumpet-synth solo was played, sounding a lot like the famous jazz song 'take 5'. Some drum effects were played by Rob and the vocals returned over the jazzy backing. A piano crash ended the song.

Tons of ink

'Yo-oh-oh' shouts over a staccato beat started out this song. It wasn't yet the sing along it would become a couple of years later, so it was only the four band members that sang these vocals. At least two different versions were played during this tour. The version that was played at Roskilde featured a piano by Robert Jan that made the song much more fluent, while in Hilversum another keyboard sound, somewhat similar to the typical percussive 'clean shirt in Paris' sound, was used and the song remained much more staccato because of this. In the chorus strange keyboard sounds and drum effects were played. In Roskilde a solo using a whistle sound was played, it basically was the main melody that was played in this solo. In Hilversum the solo was shorter and Robert Jan used a different sound. As mentioned before no sing along version this tour, but a very Chinese sounding ending was played.

a Touch of Henry Moore

Inspired by a visit to the Dutch Kröller-Möller museum, where there is a sculpture by English artist Henry Moore Henk wrote this song. After his visit he met a woman he knew from a long time ago, this is also in the lyrics. Henk also mentions Barbara Hepworth, who's workshop in France he visited. The sounds in the song represent sculpting. In various tours this was also very visually done. This is the live debut version of this song, and it wasn't as weird as it would get in later years. Still it was a remarkable song in between the rest of the songs. Robert Jan improvised around the main theme with the typical keyboard sounds. Rob provided a cool drum rhythm. The bass sounds like a real one, not a keyboard bass, so probably Michiel played it. He also sang the 'sometimes' lyrics. An up tempo instrumental part with extra piano bits was also present in the song. The vocals continue over this part. There were multiple instrumental parts in the song and they were all very nice. As with most later versions of the song the chorus of 'a touch of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth' were not present. I believe they were sung for the first time live in 1994! An 'and I am looking' ended this version of this song.

Henry Moore (1898-1986)

a reclining figure (made of brass and steel?) by Henry Moore

Tutti ragazzi

This was one of the two songs from Tent that were played. Pinball-like synth sounds started it. After the song started an undistorted guitar was played by Michiel. Later he switched to a slightly distorted guitar. The keyboard touches and melodies were stranger than in previous tours. The telstar quote in one of the instrumental parts was still present. Rob's great drumming also must be mentioned. It was quite far removed from the very tight original, but this version is a lot of fun to hear.

Unpleasant surprise

This was played very similar to the album version, maybe it was a little bit more bouncy. The driving force of the song was the heavy keyboard bass. Michiel sang lead vocals. Henk sang backing vocals in the 'finally you got to face it' parts. There was a lot of keyboard action in this song by both Henk and Robert Jan. Besides the synth bass I can identify (real?) marimba, sax, piano, bell and one or two other sounds. The rather abrupt two note ending concluded the song.

the Vermillion pencil

I never really understood what the lyrics of this song are about, but I do like this song. After a keyboard intro the guitar, keyboard bass and drums set off this song. This song featured some very nice playing and singing. The main instrument was the piano. The beat remained rather straightforward. Michiel played acoustic guitar throughout the song. Especially in the short instrumental part his playing was very good. The song had the same 'Scottish' ending as on the album. Robert Jan didn't use a bagpipe sound though. In Roskilde he used an organ sound and in Hilversum he and Henk both played it, using different sounds, but this ended up quite messy.

Wake up

This song from Robert Jan's solo album 'U.P.' was played for the second tour in a row. It is a heavy guitar song, much wilder than the Nits usually sound. It was played similar to the album with Robert Jan taking the lead vocals in the verses, while Henk took the lead vocals in the choruses. Michiel got the chance to play a lot of rock guitar and he even had a rather long solo.

Walls have ears

A song about gossip and the tabloid journalism. This song has a very Chinese sound. It was played similar to the album. Electronic handclaps can be heard in the song and there was a cool instrumental part with plenty fast and slow multiple melodies. Henk's singing sounded quite angry, like he took the subject somewhat personal. But I can't imagine the tabloid press going after Henk...

Walter and Conny

This instrumental from the Omsk album was one of the first songs Robert Jan wrote for the Nits. Walter and Conny were two TV-personalities on Dutch TV in the 60s that thought people to speak English. In 1993 the Nits made a jam on some samples from the original walter and conny voices (see Ting tour page: walter and conny as cooks). The main driving force was the persistent keyboard bass and the jazzy drumming. Robert Jan played the many melodies on piano and several bright keyboard sounds. Halfway through a nice break was played. The ending of the song was rather abrupt. In Roskilde it segued out of the intro to empty room and this guitar intro was continued for a short time over the walter and conny bass.

the Young reporter

The second song from Tent that was played. In the intro and in the ending sharp drum sounds and a keyboard were played. The song was very much organ-driven, played more freely than the original version. Michiel played guitar, but wasn't very much to the front in the mix. He also provided backing vocals and the 'hands up' ending. At the Roskilde concert this was the last song that was played as the final encore.