The Boardwalk, Sheffield, 10th May 2006 (28/05/06)

Mike Cresswell:

The omens were good. It was all set up to be a fine day. The sun was shining and I am not even semi-righteous. The Biscuits were at a favourite venue in Sheffield and I have now worked out where to park when I get there. I had 36 holes of golf the following day to look forward to and had a perfectly manicured schedule for the day. I had a full tank of petrol and some dark glasses.

I had decided to get myself perfectly psyched for the evening by arranging an appointment in Chatteris on the way. What bliss! A very pleasant morning with one of my very dear clients was followed by a walk along the High Street and as I was feeling esurient, I ventured into the cake shop, which indeed proved to be first class. As I had not seen sight of the Indoor pool, I concentrated on my hunger. I consumed a very presentable chicken salad bap (I did ask for a barm, but sadly, was still south of that line from the Wash to the Bristol Channel and this comment elicited an almost Royston Vasey glazed look). Couple this with a rather delicious bakewell tart and I am away to the north, via the Fens.

Alas, no asparagus; to the left or even to the right. But never mind, I was in Sheffield in good time and enjoying a fine pint of ale (yes, yes, yes) in the "Banker's" for the rather modest sum of £1.59. I love the North. Also, having avoided all the traffic problems associated with the usual exodus from the South, I have to confess to a momentary smirk and to my shame; the word "schadenfreude" was momentarily ricocheting around my head as I read a text from the Kitty-Meister and Lord Taylor complaining about the jams on the M67 and the Snake Pass. The North catches the dreaded South-East pandemic of "Emtwentifivitis". Nasty one, very unpredictable and apparently no cure. As my friend, the Second Lord of the Treasury might say, "If it moves, tax it". But it is mainly static; naturally.

Enough of my piffle. Turned out that the band was delayed, too. No sound check and a slightly improv show in many ways. But we were almost unanimous; one of the best. An absolutely stellar show, in my humble opinion. It had a party feel to it and the air of the unexpected. A trawl through the back catalogue and a veritable smorgasbord of surprises. The staples, but the anomalistic, too. I hasten to add, some very welcome surprises.

On to the content of the evening. An eclectic crowd and some great comedy t-shirts. Fair play to the boys in the matching Jan Ackerman shirts. Bordering on "Paintball", but still cool. The Rotherham crowd were in; more later. A name-check, if they will forgive me, for the forumistas; with whom a handshake or a manly Aussie hug was shared. BD Phil of course, Kitty, Loop, Wobble and Mrs Wobble (I am terminally shamed that I can't remember Mrs Wobble's name) and Ishmael. Any others that were there - please identify yourselves in future.

Enough of my drivel; we must talk about the real action. The erstwhile and gorgeous Mrs C. always receives the action by text and was kind enough to keep me up-to-date with the battle between the Ice-Queen and Ms. Third Person. My take on the set-list (Roger is the maestro and I humbly agree) is as follows: -

Mathematically Safe
Shit Arm, Bad Tattoo
A Shropshire Lad
**Snooker riff**
For What Is Chatteris
**Iteotwawki (aiff)**
San Antonio Foam Party
The Best Things In Life
Running Order Squabble Fest
C.A.M.R.A. Man
Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes
Fear My Wraith
Bob Wilson - Anchorman
Deep House Victims Minibus Appeal
Floreat Inertia
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel (ITLOAOT)
Twenty Four Hour Garage People
The Trumpton Riots
Depressed Beyond Tablets
Everything's A.O.R.
Vatican Broadside
His Latest Flame
We Built This Village On A Trad. Arr. Tune

Turn A Blind Eye
Bottleneck At Capel Curig
Joy Division Oven Gloves

As usual, the Cressers review concentrates on the weird, the wonderful and the snippet. I love a good snippet; you're forced to. We opened with Mathematically Safe. I was surprised with this choice last time at Derby but surprised again. Perhaps it was a nod to the recent survival of the Prenton 11? Anyway, a great track and always a pleasure.

A double bonus and worth at least 27 points was the substitution of "walk around Cartmel" for "walk around Rotherham". A little bit later, it transpired that in response to the standard plea of, "What did God give us, Nigel?" it appears that the Lord gave us laudanum. A small tincture for the gentleman to my right. I did some research on Munchausen Syndrome when I got home, but I do not want to elaborate, for fear that my eBay purchases will forever haunt the hidden depths of the Watford sorting office. One of the top ten most militant sorting offices around the country, according to the totally objective and unbiased "Der Telegraf".

I plead for the indulgence of the congruous Biscuiteer. I hope that, over the years, I have earned a couple of paragraphs of self-gratification. I have exhorted NB57 on umpteen occasions for an R.E.M. cover. We all have our peccadilloes. I am a lover of the irony that normal life gives us a gift. Irony floats my boats, as the Sherman's might say. It tickles my g-spot. I presume that in the age of equal opportunities, I am allowed one of them? Anyway, Nigel played a snippet from the charismatic and audience-participative; "It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)". The substitution of "Leonard Bernstein" with "Lennie Bennett" was inspired.

However, the irony for me relates to a person of my previous acquaintance, although I no longer associate with this person. She was a latecomer to R.E.M. and being the anally-retentive type, wanted to appear hip and trendy and to be "in" with the Murmurers. Spent the best part of a year learning all the words to ITEOTWAWKI (AIFF), which, to be fair, is not easy.

This was in 2003/4 and she was bright and breezy and ready for the 2004/5 tour. Turned out that after religiously ending their set with said song since the '95 Monster tour (although it was a set list staple in days of the late '80s, before they started typing out their set-list) they had a change of strategy and cut it out of the set-list completely. Irony #1. Piddled her off this did. Irony #2 was that she only had tickets for two shows and the second was the penultimate tour date at Hyde Park. This was rescheduled because of the 7/7 atrocities and was a week later. She had to go on holiday and missed the rescheduled gig a week later. The Boys from Athens decided that as a result of events in the Capital and that by weight of request, they would play ITEOTWAWKI (AIFF). How I guffawed. I haven't laughed so much since Maradona was exposed as a drugs cheat. Please excuse me for that distraction.

Oh well, enough of my side-splitting humour. Back to the main event. This review cannot omit the almost "Jeux Sans Frontieres"-like sight of the amazing and "vital" (I am that bloke) sight of our very own Loop, trying to parody the actions of YMCA to CORGI. I can't really describe it with any justice. Just use your imagination. If you are reading this at work, I apologise to your colleagues.

There was the customary "doff of the cap" to the locality from NB57. Slipped between "A Shropshire Lad" and "Chatteris" was a riff from "Drag Racer" by The Doug Wood Band - the BBC World Snooker music. Is it just me, or is Hazel Irvine a very poor substitute for David Woodbine? No advertising, please.

I sensed some Wirral-based paranoia on the evening, and after "Fear My Wraith", NB57 was keen to explain that he was under the impression that Lord Gyllene led the National from start to finish. He most certainly did and although we would need footage to prove, the reports suggest that he led practically all the way and was never seriously troubled. However, this was countered with a very cheeky but furtive glance in the direction of Neil, just before the start of "C.A.M.R.A. Man". As Neil was fiddling with the guitar sound box thing, Nigel whispered (without subtlety); "This one is about him".

We learned once again that Rotherham is twinned with San Quentin. There was no "Fred Titmus". Very unusual, n'est pas? Depressed Beyond Tablets was a track that I never expected to hear live. Don't know why, but I didn't. But it worked, by crikey. I have had the urge to gut humming birds lately, so perhaps that is why it struck such a chord.

I also, personally; love "Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes". With the World Cup imminent, we are due an overdose of Garth Crookes, so it was somehow apt. Anyway, the end was slightly reworked and instead of the Gods that woke up before the Gods that made the Gods were born and that's when you got into the Manics, it was; "that when Ken said that ASBOs wouldn't work". I like it and there was some chuckling around me.

How nice to have an Elvis cover and later, to hear the united cry of the crowd; a single voice proclaiming loudly that "Neil Morrissey's a knob-head". I concur, if it makes a difference. NB57 pulled a masterstroke at this point. It was a long and difficult red, with the white tight on the baulk cushion. Off three cushions and perfect position on the pink. The already noted Airstream Caravan guitar. Quality. If Mrs. NB57 could organise some net curtains for the next outing, it would be the cherry on the cake.

Two more things. Those with the stickability to plough through my seemingly endless reviews already know of my penchant for "Twenty-Four Hour Garage People". The Pringles were 94p. WTF? Not really; one pound two. Better and much more like it. "What sandwiches have you got - kidda?" Poetry. The mp3 on ironic shuffle? Why not, indeed? Our friend in the red shell jumper almost certainly has serious anger management issues already. I never tire of this song. I would love to set fire to someone's shed.

My personal highlight was "Turn A Blind Eye". A song that has always intrigued me and is hugely under-rated. The guitar-beat started and we looked at each other in a bemused way. As you do. But, what we were thinking was quite right. Yet another treat.

They came for the people in the jesters hats. And so they should. I would laugh. They also came for numerologists. Bloody good job. The words mumbo and jumbo are both prominent. A momentary slide into that Floaters classic, "Float On". Which seemed to fit the rhythm and the ambience of the evening?

The piece de resistance in this period of pre-World Cup fervour was the statement that they came for the people that 'talk tactics and formations in international football'. Hands up - how many of us are due to have the month spoiled by people that wouldn't be able to pinpoint Prenton Park on a map (let alone tell you who played there), suddenly becoming experts in how the surprise element employed by the Ecuadorian coach by using a 3-2-4-1 system was the undoing of the usually organised Poles. Stay out of trendy bars and avoid barbeques.

Enough already. Thanks, guys for a great night. An excellent way for me to (unfortunately) begin a short sabbatical from the world of the Biscuit. But I will be back sometime.