It's strange but I feel nervous. My first HMHB gig for 15 years (I know, I know....) and I'm meeting 2 devotees who go all over seeing them. Feel a bit of an impostor but the anticipation of seeing the boys again calms me down (I've been having dreams about this one, speculating to fictitious persons about the setlist...should I worry?) yet I feel wound up too. Not helped when Anton, one of the "proper" fans I am with embarks on the following discussion : which song do you think they almost certainly won't play but you wish they would? Ordinary to Enschede is mine, his is King of Rome (the pigeon tale) which I've never heard of. Shit - what an amateur. But I can't stop at just one - A Lilac Harry Quinn, Uffington Wassail, It Makes the Room Look Bigger...what awaits us?
Anyway, we're in the Boardwalk (Nigel's fave venue apparently) now - I feel slightly sorry for the support act. There can't be many bands whose irregular outings make them as anticipated as HMHB, but as crowds go the HMHB one is likely to be polite. And we were, and they didn't outstay their welcome. Entertaining frontman - enjoyed the poking back up of the glasses and the slightly bonkers scruffling of hair, though no points for the constant "we hate Labour, aren't they a letdown" diatribe. You're in Sheffield, mate, do you suppose anyone disagrees?
And then they were on, and it's all good. Mathematically Safe, 4AD3DCD, then Shit Arm, Bad Tattoo and it's time to join the small but highly energetic moshpit up front. Nigel's amp is playing up but the band are really tight (as they always have been) and the technical problems enable some great adlibbing / banter with the crowd, though it came as a most unwelcome shock to me that people still feel the need to shout out "what did God give us, Neil?" every 15 seconds. Guys - to paraphrase Jegsy Dodd, you are neither funny, ironic or irreverent, you are TWATS. Cease and desist forthwith - just look at the band's faces when you say it.
The set is a really eclectic one - Trumpton Riots / AOR about halfway through, no Titmuss, lots from Voyage / 4 Lads (unusual?), an Elvis cover..... highlights for me an awesome AOR, Shit Arm, Light at the End, Bob Wilson, Shropshire Lad, Vatican Broadside and of course 24 Hour Garage People - is it always as good as this? Was hoping for : Vagaries, Irk the Purists, more off Achtung Bono, Nerys Hughes maybe..... and I thought the encore would be odd when they started with Turn A Blind Eye (never liked it) but shot to victory with the fantastically inevitable Joy Division Oven Gloves, many of which were visible from (I think) the women at the front, who'd been there for the entire gig - good on yer, girls. And good on yer, Nigel & co. A brilliant gig - I apologise for it being 15 years since I saw your last one, I somehow doubt it'll be as long until I see you again.....