Darlington Filibuster and Firkin, 16th December (1)

Andy Martin again!:

Darlington's Filibuster & Firkin is, to all intents and purposes, just like every other Firkin pub I've ever been in, comprising of a high ceiling, lots of pictures, big screen Sky with the sound turned down and a Bruce Springsteen album played with the volume just too high. Support came from Lucas, stepping in for the Calvins (Calvin Party), and I'll be brutally honest and say that I didn't actually really listen to any of their songs, but the singer impressed Geoff.

The set was exactly the same as Wolves, but in a different order and with one notable exceptions being Barbour in Twickenham and during the encore when All I Want For Christmas appeared, much to the delight of the crowd. Speaking of which, both myself and Alan Barnsley (the fanatic formerly known as Bez) stood alone in a strange semi-circle that appeared in front of the stage, looking like a couple of Ted Robbins attempting to convince the (big) crowd that they were allowed to tap their feet and even sing. The miserable sods didn't even shout requests between songs. They weren't short of a chortle and a cheer for the superb Secret Gig (Evan Dando plus Ten and his sister Suzanne,) the tale of seeing someone in the street (the ritual of acknowledgement without breaking stride) or for the decorating song (it makes the room look bigger) but did they dance? Were they aware of the invention of the moshpit? No.

Smiling Sally from, I believe, Leeds was present, armed with a video camera so there'll be evidence of a crowd that only gave birth to six dancing fans in the last 15 minutes. One of them, a Manchester City fan as it turned out, was wearing a shirt that he claimed was Dulka Prague Away, but that myself and Nigel believed was either a Stoke City or Crystal Palace early 80's replica. Another Cockney Bloke said I looked like Paul Merson (?) and kept complaining that he couldn't understand the words. One too many Lucozades I think.

Of the last three, this gig was let down by the crowd, as was Wolves. The band preferred the sound at Wolves, but Sheffields crowd put the others to shame. Highlights of tonight was a starstruck Alan Barnsley meeting the band, somebody saying one of the rooms in the pub stunk of mouldy orange juice, me and Nigel doing a recital of the theme from Bod and Neil's fantastic word for word recital of Bagpuss.

Finally, can I say that of all their gigs in 1997, the Star & Garter was by far the best. I'm already planning 'the return of Half Man Half Biscuit' next year, and with a bit of luck there'll be appearances in Oxford and London. Oh, and Oasis may cover a song on a b-side (see News for more details).

Darlington Filibuster and Firkin, 16th December (2)

Martin Twosheds Cass:

"The good people of Darlington aren't really used to having decent bands appearing in town. The Darling Buds played here about ten years ago but that's about it. Having the band playing in a pub that's only ten minutes walk away from your house is the stuff that dreams are made of therefore. Gigs in Darlo are notorious for their poor attendance and none existant publicity, meant that the pub was probably not as full as some might have hoped but having watched bands around here for years, this was a good attendance. Andy Martin rightly pointed out that there were only a few dancers but the lads certainly won a few fans with this performance going by the reaction at the end. A few compilation tapes were duly requested. Most people were obviously new to the Biscuit experience and to expect people to go mental, on a Tuesday night is a bit optimistic. I don't want to knock Darlo, it's not bad usually, but we're not used to this level of quality - the support band were typical of the shit we usually have to put up with - come back soon lads eh?"

Wolverhampton The Varsity, 13th December (21/3/98)

Finally, here's a load of photos of the gig!

Wolverhampton The Varsity, 13th December (1)

From Andy Martin:

The Varsity, Wolverhampton. Apparently it's on the list of establishments available to buy, for those of us who want to run a pub. Get your cheque books out and all that. Unfortunately, the management's choice of support band was nothing short of a bloody disgrace, and that's coming from somebody who turned up late. I was greeted by the dulcit tones of "Parklife", before Carl informed me that they had opened with "Firestarter". There really is nothing more I have to say is there?

Although The Varsity is a decent place, if you ignore the warren-like passageways that link the bogs to the other bits, the sound did suffer at times. There also appears to be curtains instead of windows, and how we loved the biting Wolverhampton air, but again the biggest headache of all was a big crowd who did absolutely nothing but scream for "Architecture..." and only moved when (see the Sheffield review) "Fuckin' 'Ell..." and "Venus in Flares" appeared. The new new stuff got an airing, (knock three times if you want to see a...) "Secret Gig" being the best. There were bits of new stuff that preceded old songs, including something about doing a bit of decorating (oh look, you've missed a bit, no I'm only joking) and a stormer about the dilemma of letting on to someone who's name you can't remember and you don't want to have a conversation with. The set was prety much the same as Sheffield, although the changes made were entirely down to the Biscuits cottoning onto an audience who thought they were going to hear Back in the DHSS song for song. Even valiant efforts by myself and Gerard Wood to whip the crowd into a frenzy by singing and shouting rubbish were to go unrewarded.

To sum up then, another blinder from the band - Ken commenting that the sound on stage was better than Sheffield - the new stuff bodes well for next years' Peel Session and album, but a crowd obviously populated by people expecting to see a 1985 line-up doing 1985 songs. Non-band highlights was a row of 2 pence pieces on a shelf behind the bog door (perhaps some kind of Midlands ritual, or equipment for a game of nearest to the throne perhaps) and Geoff informing me that "Hair Like Brian May Blues" was written in 45 minutes. Oh and you could see Moulinex from the car park. They make things simple, and that includes the fans.

Wolverhampton The Varsity, 13th December (2)

From me:

Yep, I finally got to a gig for a change. Serves me right for becoming a bloody southerner, I suppose.

Me and me mate Ash (ta for the lift) turned up in plenty of time for the support band, so it was time for a coupla jars (at least the beer's cheaper in Wolverhampton than in Oxford). Unfortunately, the efforts on the stage were being relayed to the bar by CCTV, so there was no escaping the covers as mentioned above. Good to meet some of the names who have contributed here in the past - Andy (above and below) and Chris Stride, as well as me old mucker Konrad.

So to the gig. Pretty full inside, but I was beginning to wonder whether the "air conditioning" had frozen everyone to the floor. The shouts went up for the old stuff - come on folks, we've moved on 12 years now, there's been 4 new LPs since then. Meself and Andy tried the loud sing-a-long method of warming things up, to no avail. We also treated the crowd to a short rendition of "I Left My Barbour At Twickenham Car Park" between songs - the only chance they got to hear a fantastic song. Nigel seemed to give in to the masses a bit, with three or four songs from Back In The DHSS appearing, but he could be forgiven, as apparently there were a group of lads who had flown over especially for the gig from Germany who were a bit more familiar with the older stuff. I guess.

A quick mention for the new song, "Secret Gig", which I hadn't heard before. I tried my hardest to remember the lyrics, but sorry, it's gone. Still, this is a superb song, I hope they do it in the upcoming Peel session. Other new songs aired tonight included "4 Skinny Indie Kids" and the one verse of "Charlie Goth".

The rest of the set reads, as Andy says, much like Sheffield. "Malayan Jelutong" had another airing, and "Transmission" reappeared in the encore. Finally, it was time for "Everything's AOR", and then it was time to go home in our awaiting brown Audis. Cheers to Andy and everybody else, see you soon.

Check out The Varsity website.

Sheffield Boardwalk, 8th December (1)

From Andy Martin:

Another lively do at the venue formerly known as the Old Black Swan, replete with support from The Bendy Monsters, a band who Geoff informed me love the Biscuits. So, not being ones to disappoint, their songs revolved around staying in and watching television, but without the 'pop culture' cynicism. There was one decent offering however, namely 'The Bowler's Holding the Batsman's Wasim Akram' and that was pretty much it. Unless you count the minute silence for Big Daddy, but that wasn't a song.

So on come the troops and once again half of the crowd stand in awe of those who know the words to everything from "McIntyre..." through to "Voyage...". The moshpit swings into action once "Fuckin' 'Ell..." and "Venus in Flares" put in an appearance, and those of us who sing "You're Hard", "Charlie Goth" and "Four Skinny Indie Kids" word for word think we're vastly superior to everyone else. But then even we look stupid when three new songs are born, those being "Secret Gig" - which is blessed with excellent 'Psst' & 'Shhh' vocals from Nigel, and a great line about Evan Dando and his sister Suzanne. Then "Ready Steady Go'er" - 'a song about students and their haversacks' (Nigels' introduction) and finally, a slow lament with no title that two people wave matches in the air to (attempting some kind of 'skit' at a slow number.) Only the frustrated professional footballers amongst us understood what it was all about when Nigel explained the ruse that fans of Scottish Highland League teams had apparently seen the light and given up hitting each other hard in the face with their fists. At football matches.

No "Transmission", despite some Manc screaming for it, no 'Bez' from Barnsley on the stage (although he did take a tumble in the moshpit when he heard the match result) and I broke the news to Nigel that John Mundy's real name is Conrad Appleford. Roll on Wolverhampton, the four of them are sounding more comfortably raw every time.

Sheffield Boardwalk, 8th December (2)

Chris Stride sez:

...(it) was a cracker - it was just nice not to have to travel up to Leeds to see them play! A really good set with 3 or 4 totally new songs - a really good punky one called 'Secret Gig' at the end of which an amusing guest list is recited, a negro-spiritual one which Nigel did on his own and dedicated to Highland League Football !?, and another which I can't remember! They also did 'You're Hard' and '4 Skinny Indie Kids', as well as 2 or 3 off each album, including the rarely played 'Malayan Jelutong'. A very good turnout which produced a violent moshpit at the end including the hardest looking fat-bloke I've ever seen - people just bounced off him! It also caused the barrier at the front (which looked like it had been pinched from the interior of a Yates' Wine Lodge) to partially collapse! They'll come back to Sheffield soon I hope.

Bendy Monsters info

Dom Bradshaw writes:

Can you please add that the support for the above gig will be from my band, The Bendy Monsters. We're a Sheffield band of the Biscuit ilk and have always wanted to get to play with them and finally it has happened! Our web site is: The Bendy Monsters. It's a bit out of date, but I'll be updating it shortly.

Email contact is monsters@bendy.demon.co.uk for the band.

Leeds Duchess of York (1), 6th November

From our regular columnist Pete Fenelon:

The Duchess is not the venue it used to be, although it may just suffer from being owned by the same crew as the utterly excellent Fibbers in York. Hence, one expects poor visibility and dodgy PA there. And, lo and behold, one gets it.

The gig was somewhere between one set with an encore and two sets, mostly newish material (a lot of the Voyage... stuff, most of which is starting to work just as well on stage as on record, plus a few new songs and fragments which will no doubt mutate into fully-fledged songs; the bit about goths was a killer; "Four Skinny Indie Kids" redefined Britpop; and the "Henry Rollins! Henry Rollins! Eee's 'ard, 'eee's 'ard...." was superb. No covers, though, which is coming to be a bit of a disappointment (go on, do a Joy Division EP!)

Crowd took a while to get going; quite a frenzied pit developed by the encore, the mad bloke who occasionally gets on stage got on stage (not difficult) and some idiot tried crowdsurfing -- looked a big bloke, too.

Nigel was his usual oracular self, Ken Hancock looked like he actually *enjoyed* this one; definitely settling in. I think even Neil grinned at one point, despite most of the PA problems being bass-related.

All in all, another good one.

Leeds Duchess of York, 6th November (2)

Andy Martin (the lighter man):

"Leeds was a good night, populated by many HMHB live stalwarts accompanied by the increasing number of new faces. Add to this some women, some of which were worth a good back scuttling, a moshpit that slowly gained in popularity as the night went on and it was worth a fiver of anyones money. Even if they did kick out at 11.30. The new stuff got a play again, namely "You're Hard", "Four Skinny Indie Kids", "Roger the Goth" and that one about Twickenham in addition to some kind of improvisation at the outset from Nigel when Neil's amp gave him some bother. There was a "Match of the Day" solo (not seen that for a while) but, unsurprisingly, far too many headaches screaming for "Time Flies By" and "All I Want For Christmas...". Support was a Leeds band who's name escapes me. Musically they were OK, but they looked like the Levellers (violin, keyboard and three guitars) and sounded like The Wonderstuff. The jury was out on them anyway, nobody approached the stage until two stragglers during the last song and the band seemed to think it was hilarious to finish a song and then 'cunningly' restart it after a split second. I wouldn't have minded if it hadn't gone on for about 10 minutes and sounded like Neds Atomic F***ing Dustbin. The only scandal was one of the Barnsley devotees getting on the stage for a dance (and looking like Bez again) and some clever cunt who opted to 'crowd surf' before clattering into Neil (who handled it very well may I add.) The set consisted of mostly "Voyage...", "McIntyre..." and "Leaden Pall" with only "The Trumpton Riots" and "Venus in Flares" getting a notable mention. No "Transmission" this time though.

And for those who want lighters, I've got about 10 left if someone wants to mail me. Geoff's completely out."

Manchester Star and Garter (4), 24th October

The facts in hindsight, from me:

You've had the reviews - here's the set list:

Monmore Hare's Running           Bad Review               Deep House Victims' Minibus Appeal
A Lilac Harry Quinn              Split Single With...     You're Hard
See That My Bike's Kept Clean    Fear My Wraith           "Charlie Goth"
Eno Collaboration                A Shropshire Lad         Dead Men Don't Need Season Tickets
Running Order Squabble Fest      Tonight Matthew...       Paintball's Coming Home
Four Skinny Indie Kids           Improv Workshop...       Everything's AOR
The Trumpton Riots               Transmission             Faithlift
Fuckin' 'Ell It's Fred Titmus
"Brazilian football cliche 'to foot' - show me a goal that Pele's ever scored". Cheers Nigel!

Manchester Star and Garter (3), 24th October

Word for word from Paul Mallinson:

London to Manchester in three hours. Fuelled by Stella Artois, Virgin Trains (£45? I ask you…) and a reasonably large block of weed, me and my friend Steve arrive at the Star & Garter full of beans and in need of a good gig to keep us off the, rather chilly, inner city Manchester streets.

Half Man Half Biscuit have been a favourite of mine for a few years now – their blend of indie-comedy invective proving too magnetic an attraction whenever they announce a nearby show. Manchester is the furthest I’ve travelled to see them though, so expectations are pretty high.

The Star & Garter is a bit of a 'legend' in Manchester, even though it seems to be in the middle of nowhere – in the heart of the city centre. It’s also a bit on the rough side. 'Rough' as in 'falling to bits' – not as in 'you'll get your head kicked in if you enter'. But a good venue none the less, and the promoter – some 'proper baron' called Andy – seems to be doing good business at the door.

"Fiver to get in, but six quid will get you a complementary HMHB lighter as well," he says. 'Even men with steel heart’s love to see a dog on the pitch' (sic), it says on the side. Despite the bad grammar (he blames the printers) I have one off him.

Support The Calvin Party we’ve already missed because of distractions at the bar (high-strength lager and a particularly cute student girl who’s researching something about the Liverpool music scene), but HMHB we’re ready for, and head upstairs to the sweaty 'auditorium'.

With a huge roar from an estimated 200 heaving bodies, Half Man (as I lazily call them) trudge on, complete with new drummer, and loose off the first few numbers. It’s a great sound they’ve got tonight, the crowd are in full voice and Nigel Blackwell’s wit is as razor-sharp as ever. Originally I intended to stand back and watch the gig, but – as usual – the first few bars of 'Sponsoring the Mospits' (sic, again) and I’m leaping around at the front. A run of similar 'classics' keeping me there a good half hour after, until finally I’m forced to retreat in search of breathable air.

Two new songs – ‘I’m Hard’ (complete with hilarious Henry Rollins anecdote) and ‘Four Skinny Indie Kids Drinking Weak Lager in a Camden Boozer’ – are also premiered tonight. Normally this would be more than enough to round off an exceptional performance, but encoring with a cover of Joy Division’s 'Transmission' sends the place through the roof and we honour the privilege with much whooping and shouting. Do we want more? We want even more. Unfortunately the house lights then come on and we all realise that it’s almost midnight. HMHB have been on for the best part of two hours… The crowd have had their money’s worth – commemorative lighter an’ all.

Despite the fact there is no 'Fretwork Homework', this is still the best Half Man Half Biscuit gig I’ve so far witnessed. It’s good to see the band on top form.

Manchester Star and Garter, 24th October (2)

From Andy the promoter:

"The above was a right stormer, but I would say that cos I promoted the thing. You should ask about receiving a commerative HMHB disposable lighter of which only 150 were made, but all went down a treat - even with Nigel & Geoff."

A longer review is apparently on it's way (no pressure, Andy!).

Manchester Star and Garter, 24th October

From Gareth Jones (yes, the sound engineer):

Just a quick note to say the gig on friday was great and the band revealed a few new songs "Four Skinny Indie kids" and a new one I'd not heard about leaving a Barbour jacket at Twickenham. They did "You`re Hard" as well but you`ve probably heard that.

There are now HMHB lighters (of all things) with the internet site printed on them. If you ask Geoff very nicely he might send you one, although they`re nothing to do with him the lad who promoted the gig had them made. It was the first gig I'd done with them and it went really well. How much use this is to you I`ve no idea but there you go. I`ve not even got a set list because they just about made it up as they went. They finished with an encore of "Transmission" and "Faithlift".

Bradford One In Twelve (added 28/8/97)

From Konrad Adams:

I see you already have a review on your page and seeing as I don't remember too much (too much alcohol before, too much sleep since), I'll just fill in a few blanks (some from Chester too that were repeated here):

Set list not too much different from Chester - think the only extra song they played at Bradford was "See That My Bike's Kept Clean" - ace stuff; the line in Fear my Wraith is exactly the same as on Godcore, but National replaced by Cesarevitch - is this run at Chester perchance?

"You're Hard" is the title of the [new] song. The third bit is "Sainsbury's security - oh I'm so scared". Only other bit I remember goes "If this is New Labour Mr Blair (rpt x2), <if anyone wants me I'll be over there?>"

Excellent venue - reminded me a bit of Bishopston Community Centre, Bristol - I guess you can get the impression from that - a sort of place where everything's "right-on" and full of crusties and (ex-)punks and the like. Corking jukebox upstairs - loads of punk/post-punk tunes from late 70s/early 80s. Made me all nostalgic it did.

Didn't stay on after as Rhino wanted to get home and I was happy to go along with that. And our chief ligger wasn't present either :-). Weren't really in the main "arena" beforehand either, so just managed a quick hello to Geoff and no more. Got the usual snigger and comment that I didn't hear from Mr Blackwell to my "Goodnight Irene" shouts. All in all, a bit like Chester, but a lot less atmosphere. Thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless.

Set list:

Harry Quinn     Yipps          Bad Review           Vitas Gerulaitis
You're Hard     Fred Titmus    Dead Men Don't Need Season Tickets
Turned Up Clocked On Laid Off  Shropshire Lad       Venus In Flares
See That My Bike's Kept Clean  Help Me Rhonda       Tonight Matthew...
Busy Little Market Town        Fear My Wraith       Running Order Squabble Fest
Monmore Hare's Running         Eno Collaboration    Paintball's Coming Home
Everything's AOR               Transmission         Trumpton Riots

Bradford One In Twelve (added 24/8/97)

From John Dade:

"I saw HMHB at the 1 in 12 club in Bradford (22/8/97). I found out about this gig from your web page (many thanks). It was an excellent show, with the boys in good form, despite the fact that the club was roasting hot. I would estimate that 100-150 people were there. The band played a wide range of stuff, most was from the new LP. They played one new (to me) tune called " He's Hard" or "They're Hard" or something like that. It went something like : "Jimmy Nail . He's hard... The Security man in Sainsbury's . He's Hard." and so on. They also played 2 covers:- "Help Me Rhonda" and a corking encore of Joy Division's "Transmission". I took a friend who is a keen and active musician in a local Cajun band. He was very impressed with the quality of the bands playing and general musicianship. I first saw HMHB in 1985/6 in the Hamilton Club in Birkenhead, and would describe their playing, then, as shambolic, though none the less enjoyable for that. They are a now an extremely tight and very competent band who to paraphrase my childhood friend who was a Genesis/Rush/Styx fan "can really play their instruments". I only recently got back into HMHB after 10 year break, and have devoured all their material with great pleasure. I am perhaps the ideal fan , being 35 and from Birkenhead (Rock Ferry and later Upton). I now live in Leeds unfortunately, but the band gig regularly in this area, so I shouldn't complain. I regret to say I do not recall any of the band from my time in Birkenhead, but it is a big place I suppose.

Edinburgh The Attic (added 3/9/97)

Stuart McHugh has put an excellent review of this gig (complete with photo) on his own website, and I heartily recommend you visit it here.

Chester Telford's Warehouse (updated 21/7/97)

From, er, me:

After an epic day's travelling, arrived in Chester well in advance to find a venue very similar to Sam Fay's in Nottingham - large enough, but somewhat restricted viewing. At last the CDs are on sale, together with the new T-shirt. A chat with Geoff beforehand revealed that the Scottish 'tour' has now become a single date - Edinburgh only - but a new date in Bradford is being arranged (see above).

So to the gig. From the opening 'Eno Collaboration' to the closing 'Faithlift', it was noticeable that there was virtually no material from the '80s - I think a blast of 'Busy Little Market Town' broke the duck as an intro to, er, er, can't remember (might have been "Tonight Matthew…"). I for one think this is a good move, as the quality of more recent material is shown more clearly. Quite a large number of the audience obviously hadn't heard the newer stuff, and laughed along to the lyrics of "Paintball's Coming Home", "Bad Review" and even "Tonight Matthew" - one or two said that this is HMHB's first 'local' gig for ages (sure Preston isn't that far?). "Monmore Hare's Running" seems to owe more to The Who every time I hear it - loved the drum barrage at the end.


1) "Colin Partington" got a mention in one of the songs - anyone got any idea who he is?

2) I'd also be interested to find out what Nigel sung instead of "When your horse leads the field inside the first furlong of the National" in 'Fear My Wraith'. Only caught the last bit which sounded like "Sandwich". Now if the Open were being held there, I'd have guessed at something like "when your man leads the Open in the first round at Sandwich" ... Any ideas anyone?

Anyway, back to the gig. Three so far unreleased songs were played: Nigel introduced the first as "one they'd written in the dressing room earlier" - which in fact was their fine cover of 'Help Me Rhonda'. This was immediately followed by a true new song - 'You're Hard' - which I think I've heard before. Along the lines of "Henry Rollins, Henry Rollins, you're hard, you're hard" as so on, with further 'hard' people (e.g. Jimmy Nail). Towards the end we got a storming 'Transmission', which as Pete Fenelon said previously is razor-sharp.

And there they went. Another excellent evening, well worth the slog to get there (and back the next day). Thanks to everyone I spoke to for being so friendly, and especially those who bought me a drink!

York Fibbers 1 (added 23/6/97)

Andy Sandall writes:

Well, where to begin. Firstly there were three support bands - Pence Eleven, 'some bloke with a guitar and a chorus pedal' as he is officially known, and Moo. All three had been told that they were the only support act, and all three played, meaning HMHB finally got on at 10.10pm, which didn't go down too well.

Anyway, Pence Eleven certainly do not sound like Carter or Erasure! I think 'avant garde' is the correct term, with their songs generally involving weird time signatures, noisy bits and screaming. Not most people's cup of tea, certainly in the audience on that night anyway, but I thought one or two songs weren't that bad. But, a big no-no is slagging the audience off, which they did from the word go, and then slagging the other bands off, which they did even more. I always thought the idea of being a support band was that you got your name about a bit, but they went on with a serious attitude, and it's pretty clear from the fact that no-one except their mates applauded that they didn't go down too well. From overhearing the manager talking, it don't look like Fibbers will be on their world tour either! And they did swear a lot, and kept pretending to be shocked at doing it, but it wasn't funny after the tenth time. But at least they're original, and I always applaud that, but less attitude lads is the prescription, at least until you can headline in your own right.

The 'bloke with a guitar and a chorus pedal' came on, answered Pence Eleven back ("I've got a guitar and chorus pedal, but I've also got some tunes...",) and then had to play while they dismantled their gear. He was OK, doing run of the mill support stuff, but split his set, so he came back again before HMHB for 5 more songs, which seemed a bit much, as they tried to set up quietly behind him. And for them to be stood onstage ready while he carried on certainly didn't seem right, but that's probably the venue's fault.

Moo were a bit of a funk/soul band and were probably the best of the bunch, with decent songs and stage act, and a great organ player, and are probably worth seeing if you've got nothing better to do. Bit generic though, but all original material, and different to most support bands. Didn't join in the general bickering with the other two, either, and hurried up to let HMHB on - even the bloke with guitar then came back on!

Well, when they eventually came on it was to a great reception in a fairly packed house, and the audience were dancing well through the night, not too madly either, with both sexes having a bounce along in the pit. Similar set to the Leeds gig, but 'Running Order....' was dedicated as being "very apt all things considered", and Nigel also made a comment on Nigel Rees - inviting people to kick his head in, and point out that there is a word that rhymes with orange (which he often mentions on Countdown apparently) - citing the secretary of the All England Club whose surname is Goringe - I think Nigel's been watching Grandstand that afternoon! They played for a good hour and a quarter and then came back out and did a three song encore, ending with Faithlift, accompanied throughout by two 'Bez' style dancers on stage from the audience. A good gig, if a little ruined by the many support bands and subsequent atmosphere, but back to the old songs again, although I suppose its what the kids want! Still pulling the crowds in in York like few other bands do!

Anyway, hope this is of some use! I've tried not to be too critical of Pence Eleven, but I honestly think that I was the only person in the place that didn't think they absolutely stunk! Comments around me ranged from 'Is that how much they're being paid? It's still too much', to the classic 'Penis Eleven more like' from the manager! The singer was well into HMHB by the end though, so can't be all bad, as he danced away in the pit during the encore - pity he wasn't so happy during his set!

York Fibbers 2 (added 23/6/97)

Pete Fenelon writes:

Quite possibly the finest HMHB gig I've seen.

Three support acts. First lot were unutterably awful -- random noisy bits, pseudo-surreal lyrics, presumably meant to be somewhere between Ministry and the Butthole Surfers... agh. Some kind of singer-songwriter did a couple of spots, which I didn't catch much of 'cos I was at the bar/nattering to friends, and the other support band were pretty good in a sort of pub r&b/funk way, with particularly interesting vocals.

The lads themselves are still the four-piece from the last spate of gigs, and have now settled down into a phenomenally tight outfit. Nigel was looking particularly close-cropped and the bald patch is more in evidence; the ever self-effacing Neil stopped hiding behind a pillar towards the end of the gig and even smiled. Ken Hancock seems to have relaxed a lot since the last time I saw them and now looks quite at home...

I'll save detailed set-lists for the anoraks -- a good mixture of old and new delivered at a cracking pace without too many PA problems this time (though I think it's long past the time when Nigel should consider writing a song called "Gareth... can yer give us some more vocals? -- Gareth? Can yer give us less bass?") :)

Outstanding points from the classic repertoire -- 4AD3DCD, an apocalyptic Trumpton Riots, an utterly splenetic Paintball's Coming Home, a kick-arse Fear My Wraith, an earth-shattering Running Order Squabble Fest, an Eno Collaboration with the demons from the blackest pit of hell and an Everything's AOR that summarised the essential existential terror of Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity" in three minutes and did it years before Hornby's book.

A few new things: "Tonight Matthew, I'm going to be with Jesus" went down brilliantly, I assume it's on the forthcoming album (wanted to hear Dead Men Don't Need Season Tickets again) A couple of good covers too -- I'm more familar with "Help me Rhonda" sung in close harmony; if Nigel and Neil hit the same note it was purely coincidental but as they said "This is where we pretend to be a punk band" -- marvellous, had the entire crowd stomping and shouting. Can't beat a bit of surf music.

And, near the end of the encore, we got a crystal-clear, razor-sharp cover of "Transmission". It's obvious that Nigel and Neil are serious Joy Division fans... it's difficult to imagine the HMHB of ten years ago being able to carry off a Curtis song with the grace and power they do now. Pure brilliance.

So -- another brilliant evening. The band's getting tighter and tighter, the songs are immortal, and at some point they're going to have to give Nigel his own slot on a BBC2 late night arts programme ripping the piss out of Tony Parsons or something similar.

Glasgow Cathouse (added 21/6/97)

Stuart McHugh has sent the only complete review:

The gig was at the Cathouse on the 16th June, and was superb, as I detail below...

I should probably mention the fact that Hugh Reed and the Velvet Underpants were support at the Cathouse last night, simply because their name always generates a smile. Anyway, to the return of the heroes. Half Man Half Biscuit haven't played in Scotland for ages and I've never seen them before. In a recent Spititualized review I meant to say that there was a guy there who stood with a completely geeky look on his face, a bit like Alexei Sayle does in his credits when he arrives, Mary-Tyler-Moore style, in a new town. (TV reference for you HMHB-like trainspotters there). Anyway, I realised that this might not have been the effects of dangerous drugs, but simply the look you get on your face when a band you've waited on for years arrive and play a storming gig in the flesh. For this was the expression on half the audience at the Cathouse.

So they started off with "Fuckin' 'ell it's Fred Titmus" which was a declaration of intent, I suppose as this showed that they weren't going to only play new stuff. In fact, very little from the new LP (out June 30th (it's since been put back to July - Gez)) was aired, just 'Bad Review' and some other stuff from radio sessions, such as Shropshire Lad which I always thought of as 'Paintball part 1'. They got through more-or-less the entire back catalogue, surprise stuff like Vitus Geralitus, 4AD, Yips and Faithlift as well as the obvious stuff like Eno, Squabblefest, plus those ones that I can never remember the names of like The One That Mentions the Copenhagen Statue and The One That Mentions Robert Powell and Heinz Beans. A couple of surprises - cover versions of 'Help Me Rhonda' - is this normal behaviour or just a stab at the Xmas Number One I wonder? - and for the encore, most bizarre of all, they did Transmission followed by Paintball's Coming Home. And that was it. The crowd drifted out meaning there was no acapella Dukla Prague, no lighters held aloft or swaying or bonding with 40-year-old students. Still, as John Peel said, they're a national institution, and if they play in your town then don't miss it. Ah, it still beings a tear to my eye just thinking about it.

Leeds Duchess of York (18/4/97) review (amended 14/6/97)

Firstly, the support; prior to the gig, Mike Ackley of BiNGO told me "…don't worry, we're not a crappy student band either - we play powerful pop songs a bit similar to the Housemartins I suppose!". In reality:

"BiNGO weren't all that bad, but had a big dose of rock stardom from somewhere, which sort of ruined them. The lead singer had been on "Stars in their Eyes" a few weeks before (as Jarvis Cocker), so a few people turned up just to see him, as that was advertised on the posters! He did a bit of a Jarvis imitation, while the others indulged in what us bass-players call 'turkey nodding', with an almost Shadows-esque walking with guitars bit.

Being fair to them their music wasn't at all bad, if a bit generic and often a bit pretentious, but they were confident and the singers quite good. I'm sure the guitarist served me on the following Monday at MVC Leeds when I bought a 'Smith and Jones' video in the sale, but didn't mention anything to him, as I didn't want to swell his head too much!"

And now to the Biccies, from my 'Northern Correspondent' Andy Sandall…

"Firstly it was a cracking gig, with the audience getting into the music right from the start. In fact it was probably the best received I've ever seen them, playing to a packed house - but why they only did one encore, of just two songs, is beyond me, as the crowd were chanting for more long after the lights went up! More would have been appreciated by all, particularly after the hard day most had had due to the bomb scares in the city all day - during the afternoon the road the Duchess is on was closed off, leaving me a bit worried about the gig, as well as unable to get to my car!

Anyway, the music was top notch, with the band playing many rarer live songs, and not sticking to the usual old faithfuls they've played at other gigs I've been to. But there were three songs of particular note:

  1. A bizarre song that I've no idea what it's called, with Neil playing guitar and Ken playing very minimalist keyboards - described by Nigel as 'a bit of a weird one' (my bet is on "A Shropshire Lad" - Gez).
  2. A fantastic cover of Joy Division's 'Transmission' in the encore - a very passable impression of the band showing their early indie roots to good effect.
  3. Best of all, a brilliant punked up version of 'Help me Rhonda' by the Beach Boys! It has to be seen to be believed, and sounds brilliant - and had everyone pogo-ing!

Oh, and Ken must have got some money from somewhere as he's now bought himself a decent guitar (a real Fender Strat) rather than the £89 Encore copy he's been playing so far!"

Apparently someone was videoing the gig, so who knows, we might have some further product in the pipeline…if it was official, that is!

Preston gig comment (7/6/97)

Bradley Steven writes, "So, the Preston gig (10/4/97); took place upstairs in the Adelphi pub; quite a small venue, but it was hardly packed out. There was no support act, and the Biccies came on, if memory serves, about 2130 and played about an hour and a quarter set, with what appears to be a very similar track listing to the York gig. Well, the three that he mentions, anyway. Well, two, cos I wouldn't know a Joy Division song if it twatted me to be perfectly honest, but I digress! Anyway, it was a top-hole gig; a decent mix of old'n'new stuff, though why it took the crowd til the encore to get moving beats me…".

Leicester Physio & Firkin (2/6/97)

From Mark Hibbett:

"Hello - just been looking at the brilliant HMHB page again, and this is just a swift note to say that they played at the Physio & Firkin in Leicester, and it was fantastic. Did "Turned Up Clocked On Laid Off", which never seen them do before, and is my favourite song. As I pointed out to many people repeatedly all week.

Anyway, they also played in Leamington Spa (I think). Not sure where, but the support band were Unknown Stuntman, my Git Friends who supported them in Leicester instead of my band. Gits. I don't think that one's on the page ..."

Leicester Physio & Firkin (8/6/97)

Credited to "Fred":

My main memories of this one are the difficulty getting tickets due to a high demand from the Swedish fan club who travelled over the week before to snap up the tickets. Couldn't identify them at the gig however. Secondly, Tom the Chelsea bloke's reluctance to show his face because this was the very pub Chelsea had (allegedly) trashed the previous week in the cup. Thirdly, the completely manic Biscuits fan on the door who had a very strict policy about tickets at the start of the evening but by the end was letting everyone in with tears in his eyes because he was so happy the Biscuits were playing his pub. Brilliant gig.

Who went: Tom(tbc), High Maintenance Fred, The lovely Prew, Pauline, Under age Chris, and Geezer Butler.

Southwick Village Hall, Brighton

HMHB played a 'benefit' for Brighton and Hove Albion F.C. on Feb 6th.

Fiddlers', Bedminster, Bristol, 24/1/97 (review added 2/6/97)

Not sure how this one got missed off originally - I was there! Let's see how well the memory works…

Gez sez: "No support band for this gig, set in what looked more like a social club with a back room for dinner and dance type events. Before HMHB came on, the 'DJ' decided to play the whole of "Eno Collaboration" - good intro, my son! The gig itself was top notch as usual, with a fine mix of old and new, although there was little material from '….Godcore'. Highlight of the night for the crowd was almost certainly my appearance on stage with me mate Konrad (see credits) after the main set, to start up a chorus of "Paintball's Coming Home" (which on reflection hardly anyone else would have known!). Most people thought we were mad, obviously of the opinion that this sort of activity would never get an encore. It did of course, with "Paintball" getting a full airing. A top night!"