The Robin 2, Bilston, Thu 5th March 2009 (6/3/09)

John Holland:

After numerous attendances at HMHB gigs, including two previous at the Robin2, I've finally felt moved to a review. This is a gem of a venue, hard to fault, and always seems to attract a great crowd, well worth a 90mile drive down. Ample parking and a good selection takeaways and drinking holes helps round off a top night.

But I have to say Thursday's gig was exceptional, the band were on great form, Nigel was sparkling and in playful mood, with short conversations with various audience members sprinkled throughout the set, almost as if you'd walked into a party and the host was holding forth in his front room. What a contrast to playing the Manchester Academy. Ken, Neil and Carl were on great form, and it all held together really well, despite frequent pauses and digressions.

Mention should be made of the support, I thought he was a fine songsmith, I'd happily watch him again, he was genuinely enthusiastic about the band he was supporting too.

The set was a good mix, plenty of songs from CSI-Ambleside (this is such a good album, I do feel Nigel is mellowing lyrically, while the music becomes more energetic) plus many of the best from previous albums and a few crowd pleasing golden oldies, a couple I've not heard live before, though shame on me, I can't remember which. Neither could I spot the cover, I expected one in the encore but didn't get one. I shall rely on Roger Green as my memory for the night, sterling work Roger! The 24hour garage has finally sold out of Pringles and we had to make do with Snak A Jacks at 94 pence a pack, never tried them myself, do they come in sour cream and chives? Extra atmosphere came courtesy of the smoke machine, at Nigel's request we got a few puffs early on, but it seemed to die an unmourned death.

Nigel was having such a good time that at one point I suspected he wasn't going home, we were going to be locked in till the wee small hours, but Birkenhead Van Hire want their van back, so after 2hours, including the statutory 3 song encore, we were off into the chilly night at 11'o'clock, after an evening that makes life worth living. If you care to visit Robin2 yourself I notice Jan Akerman and Focus are both appearing soon...