London Mean Fiddler, Fri 12th November (14/11/99)

Leigh Hunt wins longest review of the year:

As I had suffered in bed for most of the week with a stinking cold, I had decided to drive the 25 miles or so from Redhill in Surrey to Harlesden in West London, site of the Mean Fiddler. I planned out a route, leaving time for a two song encore. The journey was untroubled. After all, it's not as if Harlesden in the depths of the stygian metropolis or in the fallow pits of North London. On the contrary, it's not far from Chelsea and so that's me happy.

Found the venue, parked and entered. It was 8.15pm. Tickets were handed over and we trudged, freezing, past the merchandising stall manned manfully by Andy and Geoff. I couldn't see anything new so I didn't stop to talk (I didn't want to pass on my cold either).

Found a near empty venue, two friends and my first post-illness beer. Support band Adorno came on. For me, they were a cross between the Pixies, the Delgados with a touch of King of the Slums. Some pleasant tunes alternated with nice Cobain-style shrieking. I have seen a lot lot worse than this before.

Anyway, onto the main event. Evil Gazebo strolled onto stage as I made my way toward the front. The opening chimes of Fred Titmus started off as I noticed several strange things. Firstly, the dancefloor was extremely brightly lit as was the stage with the band's now obligatory moth; secondly, the air-conditioning was on and was working; thirdly and perhaps related to the last point, no one was dancing!!!

Okay, I was bopping around a bit and a wacked out guy in orange to my right was doing commendable spazz-dancing (I didn't find the way he punched me in the ribs a few times particularly commendable - Gez) but that was it. Vitas Gerulaitis came next. Again, everyone knew the words, everyone tapped toes and nodded their heads. Very disappointing (not sure everyone will agree with you here! - Gez). This was my first 'proper' HMHB gig after a festival appearance and the QE gig last month and I was hoping for some moshing of yore. I wanted to mosh like it was 1989. There, Nigel, you can have that one for free.

Things got very weird next. The chords sounded eerily familiar. Some bloke shouted 'Henry Rollins' but it didn't sound like 'You're Hard', it sounded like Dickie Davies' Eyes. It bloody well is it, as well! But still, the crowd just sang along. Then, something odd happened. The song segued into My Baby's Got The Yipps and a dozen or so of the crowd including me, started pogoing like crazy. I don't know why this song did it but from then on, it was a non-stop mass of writhing bodies down the front.

Other songs in the set were (from memory only) Time Flies By, Dead Men Don't Need Season Tickets, Deep House Victims Minibus Appeal, Sponsoring the Moshpits ("a suggestion not a song"), Look Dad, No Tunes, Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes, Paintball's Coming Home, Running Order Squabble Fest, You're Hard, Floreat Inertia (I see this was played recently and I was well chuffed that it got another airing) and Four Skinny Indie Kids (I like the way that the crowd sing this 'at' the band whereas Nigel's smirk throughout seems to confirm that it's really about us).

Secret Gig was probably as energetic as the crowd got with all its furious leaping and schhhing. Gubba Lookalikes was thrown into the set and went down well with the majority of the crowd who hadn't heard it before. The crowd was a motley range of ages, sexes, Northerners, Southerners but looking around me at the throng and up at the balconies, it looked like it wasn't just me who was enjoying myself. Just to polish things off, we had an elongated A Country Practice. Many of lyrics were adapted: bitter ex-soap stars went on to mention Julie Goodyear's spin-off among others while the cynicism about the Millennium among the general public seems to have annoyed Nigel as he sees that as 'his domain'.

Nigel's between-song banter was as cutely poisonous as ever. Far too many good ones to mention along with loads I didn't understand or hear properly (which Nigel nasally acknowledged) but I have to mention 'Greg Rusedski, is a robot, I can prove it' along with a savage dissemination of erm, Henri La Conte, 'we laugh uncontrollably as he drops the ball and then clap ourselves for laughing uncontrollably'. Also seen by me for the first time is the way one liners from one gig 'Meerkats are cliched' turn into verses by the next gig. One day, little verse, you may grow up to be a song. Also, developed since last time I saw is the Welsh goth thing which now has three verses (and more it seems but we cheered a bit too loud after the one about the overweight girlfriend that rhymed 'crimps' with 'communing with imps' as well as rhyming 'brother Wilf' with 'Cradle of Filth').

The band left the stage for barely a minute before returning for a storming version of the majestic Uffington Wassail. It took a bit longer for the crowd to get into this one but the roaring coda convinced everyone that this is a classic song. And then to round things off, they finished us off with Trumpton Riots. Captain Black would've been well and truly fucked off as we acted all Chigley Skin-like. The band exited to an aurora of applause, the club started, a glass of iced water was slurped. We left the extremely friendly staff of the Mean Fiddler for my car because public transport sucks. My cold had now miraculously filtered away...