Barrow review, Fri 5th March (8/3/99)

Andy Martin:

"Whispers" - 'Nothing to shout about' according to Geoff Davies prior to the gig, so it wasn't surprising that he was proved right. Residing in "the cul-de-sac of Great Britain" and "the UK's poorest town" (© locals of Barrow-in-Furness). "Whispers" can be described more accurately as a handbag club similar to the one that featured in Ken Loach's "Raining Stones". It's council-glamour lighting effects and it's archetypal bow-tie wearing bouncers (who's method of keeping order includes delivering lines like "move your seat or I'll knock your fucking head off") do little to mask the grim reality. Whispers is a backwater club in a backwater town policed by backward people who'd do anything to get a deal advertising Clorets. Ask Michael Hirst and Sally Canlin - they'll tell you.

First up onto the "stage" - comprising of that corner of any night-club just above the sunken dancefloor where groups of ground-floor perfume girls dance - are Medicine Show, a four piece who, musically, are competent. Unfortunately Medicine Show are fronted by a bloke who tries his best to be the big front man but only succeeds in looking like a second rate Bobby Crush minus the piano. Indeed his between-song ramblings and eagerness to wander around the club singing his inane "songs" about such riveting subjects as getting up for work on Monday morning didn't in any way impress the paying public. "What a stupid twat" barked John Parker; "he's confusing it with Butlin's" commented Lisa Mclaren, who'd both travelled from the Isle of Man to see the Biscuits. Even Neil Crossley likened the whole sorry (Medicine) show to "the scene in the Miners Club in Kes" - he was that bad.

So it was a blessed relief when HMHB took to the stage and kicked off with Fuckin' Ell It's Fred Titmus, much to the delight of the 300-strong crowd. Apart from a couple of early problems the overall sound was spot-on, unfortunately the said crowd insisted on standing right at the very back of the club, not one of them daring to venture onto the expansive dancefloor for fear of ridicule. It was also very plain that each and every one of them had only ever heard Back In and Back Again In The DHSS, and even then they got it all wrong. They called for "Trumpton" and got Trumpton Riots - they continued to call for "Trumpton" until they got Time Flies By as the last song of the encore. At this point some of them decided to stealthily creep onto the dancefloor and bridge the 15ft gap between themselves and the band. Too little, too late. Never have I seen so many people present at a gig so blatantly unaware that Paintball's Coming Home; Turned Up, Clocked On, Laid Off; Outbreak of Vitas Gerulaitis; A Country Practice etc. had been written that I thought they mustn't receive Radio One. It must be the hills or something.

I didn't get to see the final band of the showcase, but then again nobody else did judging by the way the place almost completely emptied after the Biscuit's had vacated the "stage". Myself and Geoff Davies were beating a hasty retreat through the back door after his criticism of the door staff to the Manageress resulted in her scuttling over and pointing us out to them. Childish? Yes, I thought that as well. So it was with glad hearts that we vacated the one horse town that is Barrow-in-Furness - a place I had, until that night, only ever heard mentioned during a Chewits advert during the 80's. I wish I'd left it that way.