Newcastle Northumbria University, Thu 12th August (13/8/04)

Chris Burke:

Good lord, can it really be that a whole year has passed since HMHB last rolled into Newcastle? Well - yes, but 2 gigs in the space of a year (and five days)? Given the Biccies drought that the Toon has suffered over the last 15 or so years, we should be truly thankful.

This was a step-up venue-wise from last year's appearance (with the attendant step-up in ticket price, not that I'm begrudging lining the pockets of Blackwell et al). Stage 2 at the Poly - sorry, the University of Northumbria as it is now called by absolutely nobody over the age of 30 - is a sort of auditorium affair, with a large standing area directly in front of the stage, and tiered seating towards the back for the mums and grannies. Anyway, we cleverly avoided the two support acts by skilfully staying in the pub until half past eight, so I can't offer any verdict - but a swift eye over one of the bands' websites would indicate that they're they type of artistes whose next album would be more 'song based'. Smashing. There was just enough time to load up on T-shirts and CDs (I recently discovered that my 'Voyage' CD case no longer held the CD it was supposed to so it was good opportunity to get a replacement.) before the Birkenhead boys burst onto the stage - well, wandered onto the stage and fumbled round for a bit - and launched into what may or may not have been 'Fred Titmus'. Honestly, my memory for set lists these days is absolutely terrible.

The first few tracks were a bit iffy sound-wise - and too damn quiet - but the lads soon got into their stride, with Ken in particular throwing some full-on guitar-hero moves like a seven-stone, balding, bespectacled Hendrix. Go on, son! We were treated to a great mix of tracks covering pretty much their entire career, with only 'Godcore', as ever, being largely ignored; subsequently my hopes of hearing 'Fear my Wraith' live again (I last heard it in Bradford in 1997, if memory serves) were cruelly dashed. No matter - the sheer depth of Half Man's back catalogue means that every gig is going to be a collection of greatest hits (and if they played every track that every punter wanted, their sets would be about 14 hours long).

It took a while for the audience to warm up, but eventually there was a fair bit of moshing going on despite the best efforts of the spectacularly humourless security staff, and when the house lights finally came on everyone was a bit sweaty and knackered and grinning from ear to ear. So what more could you ask of an evening's entertainment? Well how about your cab driver playing Department S's 'Sub-Stance' album at ear-splitting volume all the way home? Result!