The Academy 2, Manchester, 13th December (17/12/02)

Chris Cole again, this time direct::

The annual pilgrimage to Manchester University to see the lads. Unlike others, who have to travel miles, we live a single bus journey away, so a few beers were the order of the day.

The band's policy of refusing to do lengthy tours means that virtually the same crowd turns up year after year, and a gig becomes something of a reunion; a chance to meet old friends, and exchange stories and "references."

The set kicks off with "The Light At The End Of The Tunnel..." (With several mentions of Peak District locations- I'm a keen walker myself and am familiar with all the places referred to.)

All the classics are performed:"Fred Titmus", "Dukla Prague", "Look Dad, No Tunes", and a barnstorming version of "Trumpton Riots."

Andy Kershaw has recently described them as "The best folk group in Britain."-Cloth eared folk purists may disagree, but isn't folk music, or at least traditional folk music supposed about the lives of ordinary people? So, most of us no longer "Follow the plough" or "Sail the raging main", we go the match or suffer surly staff at all night garages. Folk music has always evolved, you know....

The set is, as always,punctuated by Nigel's witty asides and snatches of new songs, and is over far too quickly, leaving us to wonder when "The Bickies" will entertain us with more live shows.

As a festive cure for Waterman and co's bunch of performing puppets this gig couldn't have come at a better time. Life affirming.