The Arches, Glasgow, Thu 21st May 2009 (28/05/09)

Mike Cresswell:

One of the great joys of a Biscuit gig for your correspondent is that it is always an adventure. This is usually because it is a long drive and often, to somewhere that I have not been before, or not seen for some time. There is the thrill of the trek across unfamiliar terrain and the joy of finding a spot to park the motor.

You are led to such diverse places as (more recently) Frome, Carlisle and Holmfirth; all lovely places and not towns that would ever give me cause to visit during the humdrum of everyday existence or, in search of a football ground. Glasgow was an adventure for a different reason; a combination of a last minute decision to go and because I went on the train. Lucky to get seat, the man said. Why? How many people need to Glasgow on a Thursday lunchtime? Quite a lot, it transpired.

But, not just any old train. The superfast Virgin Express on the way up and then another one of life's 'list' things ticked off on the return journey - The Caledonian Sleeper. Still no sign of those Japanese twins, Fook Yu and Fook Mi. I had never been on the sleeper before and I have to say, sleeping in a tiny bunk on a train that constantly changes speed and tracks is not conducive to a peaceful night's kip. But, it was infinitely better than the 400 mile drive home through the night and had the added benefit that for the first time in years, I was able to consume a wholesome portion of ale before and during the gig. I now have a more intimate knowledge of the need for the mass rush to the toilets immediately upon the band exiting stage left.

It sort of made up for missing my first gig in a couple of years at Aberdeen. I was annoyed, but the reality of life in the credit crunch meant that I could not justify the time to drive to a place (as lovely as it is) that is as far away from me as Bordeaux. The compensation was the conversation at the rail station; "Can you get me on the Sleeper?", "Yes, Sir - but would you like to share a berth?" "With whom?" I politely inquired. "That, I don't know; we just allocate as per bookings. There are no mixed berths, though". Right. "How much for single occupancy?" says I. "An extra £15, Sir". Best surcharge that has ever been levied in my general direction.

But enough of my pre-amble. Still, I have to follow the sad formula that my reviews subscribe to. I don't do this for a living, you know. It is like a return to school; set the scene, gives some facts, describe the events and then sum up. I remember Miss Hough well. Good teacher, big knockers. The Chemistry Master was a crusty old sod who gave off an odour. No idea what his name was.

For those still with me, here is the order of play; as texted to 'Er At Home: -

Light Tunnel, Chimp, Petty, Fred, Indie Kids, Dickie D, Restless, Vitas G, Chatteris, Shit Arm, Bob W, Look Dad, Totnes, Vagaries, Paintball, NS Day, Bad review, Yahoo Chess, 24 Hr, Trad Arr T, Trumpton, JDOG. Encs. Country P, Driver Train, Taste of Cindy (J&M Chain).

A good set-list and well worth the effort. The sound was not bad, the bouncers were slightly unnecessary and Nigel was in a particularly loquacious mood. Perhaps the Highland air had stimulated the comedian that lurks inside him, but there was quite a lot of stand-up between songs; "I'm here till Thursday" He wasn't wrong.

Where shall I start? I never know. Do people want a verbatim account of what Nigel said and what I considered to be worth repeating? I never know. However, when I read reviews about books, bands or films that I enjoyed, the reviews are often self-indulgent and almost having to be disagreeable for the critic to justify his tag. Who knows? This is what you get from me, if you don't like, I won't bother next time.

Let's start with Paintball; a song that lends itself to re-invention and how beautifully so. Nigel reminded us of last year's update; "They'd go through hell and high water, for the chance; to be in the Top Gear aud-ience". Nice. But even better was the newest verse, which may have come out at Aberdeen, I don't know for sure:

"They're really into their music, their tastes are broad,
They're really into their music, their tastes are broad,
They're really into their music, their tastes are broad,
From Coldplay right through to U2"

There were some nice introductions to the songs. "This is a song that I wrote about losing out to my love rival on the Duckworth-Lewis" for 'Chatteris' and for 'Fred'; "This is a song that I wrote after failing to sparkle in the dressage". Prefixing 'Twenty Four Hour Garage People' was the lovely, "This is a song about reversing into a car boot sale and accidentally flogging your engine".

The jokes flowed thick and fast. "It's my Mother-in-Law's birthday. She makes great yoghurt. She puts a pint of milk on the kitchen table and stares at it for ten minutes." In response to a shout from the audience about Tranmere's failure to step up to the plate on the last day of the season, NB57 went into a ramble about one of his mates. Eight games into the season, said mate nailed his season ticket to the Chairman's office. After some cajoling, he realised the error of his ways and went back the following day to recover it, but the nail had been robbed.

At one point, there was yet another inevitable shout from the audience (That's one of ours) for Climie Fisher. I can do that, claims Blackwell. A reasonable stab at the opening bars followed, punctuated by the comedic sticking of his plectrum to his sweaty brow, amid claims that; "I saw Fairport Convention's bass player do that once and learned it off him". Nigel admitted that he needs to practice a little more, but he has been very busy. "My chameleon passed away; it died crossing the tartan rug - topically clichéd that one!"

On the invective front, Joanna Lumley was once again in the vanguard. "Shut up now. Fair enough what she did, but go away now". Obviously not a fan of the aging Avenger. Some gentle ribbing for Laurencekirk, their location for the previous night's rest. "Nice place, but it's similar to Neston, everyone looks worryingly similar". This follows with a point to the audience; "You look a bit like me; we'll leave it there." A nod to the security 'police' in their Borussia Dortmund tops. Fitted Hi-Viz and very menacing, too.

Bitter ex-soap stars once again get pilloried at length in CP. "WTF is Matthew Marsden doing now?" I've no idea, Nigel. Some yin but some yang; William Roche is praised for knowing exactly which side his bread is buttered upon. The antics of Henri Leconte in the Masters Tennis are noted, with a tone of disdain; methinks? Apparently, there are a lot of bad wolves in the Luther Blissett stand.

That just leaves me with the ubiquitous "Twenty Four Hour Garage People". I have no idea if this song appeals to the non-Biscuit lover, although frankly my dear, I couldn't really give one. To me it is essential Blackwell; an ever-evolving smorgasbord of delight, subtly metamorphosing with the gentle tinkering that lends itself to Nigel's rampant imagination. Let me update you with current developments. Pringles are, of course, 94 pence. As opposed to; "That'll be 79 pence please sir, bit of a recession on, so we've reduced the price. Anything else you want, just ask." This is after having to go to the other side of the shop through a heavy door, to which our character can't find the key to. "But it's OK, I'll wait."

Our Mate, Chief, Pal, Ace, Captain (over-50), Boss and Bud is getting annoyed. Down goes the Isaac Asimov. Mind you, this is only concealing a word search; "Friend, non-existent, etc." He hasn't graduated to Sudoku yet. He has to put his iPod down, but it's loud because he is partly deaf, due to the fact that he's into Moto GP and he goes to all the meetings. The iPod is on shuffle and all you hear is "Rory Gallagher, Edgar Winter Band, Edgar WB, Rory G, RG, EWG, etc." The sign behind him says that; "You don't have to like Bob Seger to work here, but you probably do." Finally, he has a packet of Fruit Polos. "Who the frick over 50 eats Fruit Polos?"

All in all, a fine effort all round. To sum up, I did notice whilst reconnoitring the venue that the usual dark blue BVH had been upgraded to a more luxurious minibus. The segue from Country Practice into Driver of a Train was nice and I thought that the venue was pleasant. Not too hot being in the railway arches and very convenient for me to get back to the Sleeper. All told, well worth the trip. Next time, I will make the effort to see a bit more of Glasgow. Roll on a trip to Somerset and Avon.