To paraphrase Paintball's Coming Home, "they've got the whole crowd in their pub...to see the Biscuits at the Forum."
Kentish Town's Bull & Gate was doing a roaring trade selling pints of ale and packets of crisps to a seething mass of forty-something men clad in disturbingly tight HMHB T-shirts and Dukla Prague away kits. Snippets of conversation could be heard as you waited to be served:
"Well of course I see him as a poet really" "Wouldn't it be great if they played Referee's Alphabet." "They did a Velvets cover at Edinburgh you know."
I did fear, when the venue was announced, that the whole thing might resemble one of those behind closed doors European ties with huge tracts of empty space broken here and there by the odd bemused looking punter. However, The Forum was heaving and four deep at the bar when I arrived to catch the last, lengthy song by Calvin Party which evoked the Wedding Present, The Fall and Sonic Youth.
In stark contrast to their usual low key arrivals, HMHB came onto the stage to a backing track of sombre classical music and dazzling lights; you half expected ELP (H-ELP more like) to launch into something adsurd from Tarkus. Mercifully we got Restless Legs instead, followed by Fred Titmus and Problem Chimp, the first of the songs from CSI Ambleside (Bubblewrap, Petty Sessions, Blue Badge, Joyce, Bad Losers and Shite Day were also aired).
The light-show was clearly having as effect on Nigel who said "can you turn the real lights up, we can't see what we're doing here" and there also appeared to be monitor problems initially but they were short lived and what followed was a storming hour and a half.
Highlights included Evil Gazebo, Country Practice (both driven by Neil's thundering bass riffs), Indie Kids, AOR, Wrong Grave, Look Dad and Dukla Prague Away Kit. The between song chat featured references to Mike Parry's Sport's Breakfast, a new Sky show called "Ross Kemp in the Cotswolds" and what you do if your life coach dies in a car crash. We had the little intro bit about "wrong bin, wrong day" which may end up as a fully fledged song and during Shit Arm, Bad Tattoo Mary Hopkin became Wendy Richard.
As ever, the biggest laughs were engendered by 24 Hour Garage People. The Pringles were 94p, and he sardonically referred to the garage worker as "chief". Best of all though was this:
"Behind him there was a sign which read 'You don't have to worship Barclay James Harvest to work here but you probably do anyway'. He's the type of guy who goes to see Dale Griffin's Mott the Hoople or Don Powell's ELO (sic)"
Of the new songs, Bad Losers on Yahoo Chess looks set to be a long running live favourite and National Shite Day, already a solid classic, was a fitting end to the main set.
They returned with Chatteris and then a cover of Electricity by OMD in which Ken coped manfully with reproducing the tinkly keyboard motif on the guitar. The final encore of Joy Division Oven Gloves ensured a rapturously received finale, capping another wonderful night from a band which seldom, if ever, disappoints. I went along with a 21 year old Fall obsessive who declared himself converted on the spot.
It'll be interesting to see how this high profile London gig compares with the more intimate setting at Norwich next month. I wonder how long it'll take Nigel to throw in a match fixing gag.