Manchester, Fri 28th November (04/12/03)

Stuart Goodacre, from Dripfed:

With the venue having been moved to a larger place to accommodate the extra ticket sales, this was only going to be a superb gig as up to a thousand people grabbed their pints and braced themselves.

First up was Mark Silverton, who was a lot funnier than his song titles might suggest; 'Don't put your dick in the blender', 'Slut song', Don't write a song about shooting the president'.

Next on was Hovis Presley who, once he'd dealt with a moronic but persistent heckler, drifted from poetry to jokes. Sample: I told the doctor I had an ear infection. 'What are the symptons?' 'They're an American cartoon family' 'Do you want a prescription?' I know what they look like'.

Then on came Half Man Half Biscuit to the crowd's feverish acclaim. For those not in the know, Half Man Half Biscuit are one of the best lyrics bands in the country.

They satirise everything going and they do it very, very hard. However, they don't sledgehammer things, they just slit the throat and let their subjects bleed to death. Middle class pretentiousness, the boredom of everyday life, trendy people - they're all there for the taking.

Lead singer and songwriter Nigel Blackwell knows many reasons as to why a lot of modern life is shit, and his long list of social references is perhaps one chief reason for the band's popularity. Another is the undeniable close relationship with their fans.

There's none of this 'Hello Manchester' stuff; for the first two minutes, the lads are trying to unravel their guitar leads. Normally, there's quite a bit of banter from Nigel but tonight, he's sticking strictly to the set (which he keeps having to read between song to remind himself).

And then they launched into a 90 minute set of songs from their entire existence: Sealclubbing; Improv Workshop Mimeshow Gobshite; Fuckin' Ell it's Fred Titmus; Girlfriend's got the yips; The light at the end of the tunnel (is the light of the oncoming train); If I had possession over Pancake Day; Monmouth hare running, Uffington Wassail; C.A.M.R.A man; It makes the room look bigger; Running order squabble fest; Used to be in Evil Gazebo; Doreen; Footsteps; Tending the wrong grave for 23 years; and many others.

24 hour garage people was sung by Nigel as if he knew the hapless person who worked there was in the audience, an evil grin on his face as he asks for '2 scotch eggs and a jar of marmite'.

By time he gets to the last song in the set, 'Paintball's coming home' he forgets the words, but rather than drop the song, he not only picks it up again with relish, he adds two new verses; 'Didn't choose the cat, the cat chose us, now it's got it's own website' and 'He's got Bose 6 speakers in the car, plays the best of Crowded House.' The crowd loved it.

Nigel finally realised that he'd run over time when coming back for an encore, So he kick's into 'What do I get' by the Buzzcocks and then it's all over. A superb gig, despite a few pricks in the mosh pit.

Next up is Sheffield Boardwalk on February 19th. Why not treat your partner to a valentine's gift and go and see the best live band in the UK?