Having found a buyer for our spare ticket (Mark from Bradford), we arranged to meet him in a layby off the M62 last night. What a smashing bloke he was too. He offered to drive me and my two mates to the gig because he'd been before and knew how to get to the Boardwalk. So despite having to wait what seemed like ages for mate #2 to meet us in the layby, we got to the venue in plenty of time. The last HMHB gig I attended was Manchester in December 2002, so I was keen to rectify this criminal neglect. Queueing at the bar, I bumped into a clutch of forum members - Loop, Kitty, nwobble and erm, was it Mike? Nice to put faces to names after all this while.
The fun started at about 9:30. No support act, so it was straight into "The Light at the End of the Tunnel". We must have got almost 90 minutes worth of quality tunes last night. From memory, and not in order:
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Len Ganley Stance
CORGI Registered Friends
Them's the Vagaries
99% of Gargoyles
Venus in Flares
Improv Workshop Mimeshow Gobshite
Outbreak of Vitus Gerulaitis (could be wrong on this one)
A Shropshire Lad
Four Skinny Indie Kids
Irk the Purists
Medley: "writing on the sole of your slipper" / "foot up in Europe"
24 Hour Garage People
Look Dad, No Tunes
San Antonio Foam Party
Them's the Vagaries
Joy Division Oven Gloves
"Monmore" may have been played also. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of old songs. "Len Ganley Stance" was great; the crowd starting singing "God gave us life" as the song got underway. "Wrong song - same chords though" smirked Nigel. An anecdote about meeting a biker who talked about his BSA ("I thought he was talking about his Big Sweaty Armpits") led into "CAMRA Man".
There was no full cover version played, but Nigel busked a couple of covers when he was waiting for Ken to tune his guitar. In the middle of one song (I can't remember which one now), Nigel veered off into Nick Cave's "The Mercy Seat".
As usual, there was some amusing chat from Mr Blackwell. He discussed some local landmarks and places of interest - Wentworth craft centre ("best take a flask") got a couple of mentions, the reservoir where the Dambusters bomb was tested cropped up, and a cottage he'd seen on the way there that has a big sign saying "EGGS" on it. Not "Eggs next left" perhaps? Also, prompted by somebody in the audience shouting out the name, some chat about a Scottish island and the rare plant that grows there. "Sealions", suggested somebody in the audience, which led Nigel to mention Chester Zoo and the summer discount you get if you visit it in the winter. Also, the gents toilet was closed due to somebody having stuffed full toilet rolls down the bowl to block them. We got a tip on how to fix the roll when the twin-ply sheets aren't aligned.
Highlights: "Evil Gazebo" - the semi-improvised conversation with the NME journalist was terrific. "Secret Gig" was a raucous delight. "24 Hour Garage People" never fails to hit the targt, with the extended middle section describing the stand-off that seems to get longer every time I hear it. And the Quo-esque rock-out of "Them's the Vagaries" appealed also.
After one song, Nigel pretended to thrust his guitars into the amps, mocking the Townsends and Cobains of this world. After "Look Dad, No Tunes" he rubbed the neck of the guitar against the mic stand, not quite achieving feedback. Given recent events, we all expected to hear "Vatican Broadside" and we got it too, with the last line changed to the almost inevitable "in relation to me raising [sic] from the dead" (got a huge cheer).
Some things which caught my eye:
1. A small woman right at the front of the stage, doing very well to remain there all set and not be flattened in the mayhem.
2. A bloke who looked like David Gower standing at the front.
3. A young couple having an amusing domestic at the edge of the mosh mayhem towards the end.
So, another fine HMHB performance. How DOES Nigel remember all the words? They're a very wordy band - none of this verse 1 / chorus / verse 2 / chorus / middle8 / repeat verse 1 / chorus to fade business. Anyway, another quality night in the company of a national treasure.