Oxford, Thu 31st May 2012 (04/06/12)

Mike Cresswell:

I am still in a state of mild shock after hearing "Ordinary to Enschede". I can't guarantee it is the first time that I've heard it live, but I was only an occasional gigger in the 1990s, so can't really recall a lot of detail. It certainly hasn't been rolled out this century. There was, in retrospect, a surreal moment when it started; partly because those that recognized it were probably like me; a tad disbelieving. Many may not have recognized it, by dint of it not making a commercial release of any description, although that could be just my imagination. I knew it was something special, because Mrs. C. gave me one of those looks. I think it related to the fact that initially I wasn't singing backing vocals (which if she can hear them is a shame for her; I tend to stand on the side of her deaf ear for her own protection) and she couldn't work out the reason for this rather odd behaviour.

It was a good night for Mrs. C. She got to come along for a change and join me for the quintessential Biscuit-gig experience. The food was slightly more up-market than usual; mainly because we sat down to eat. She did ask if she has the right of rebuttal; apparently my previous review neglected to mention the gardening fairy; who is in close cahoots with the dishwasher-stacking fairy, the putting-things-away fairy and the dusting fairy. It was slightly disappointing that having planned to arrive extremely promptly in Oxford, wander around the historic centre and enjoy a meal at a bijou specialist restaurant in Jericho, work rather got in the way and we arrived in time to eat in the very typically student-ish Cowley Road and pitch up for a 9:00 p.m. prompt start.

No dreaming spires, just a taxi-like snake around the back roads of Headington and Southfields (I like to cut down New High Street and drive past The Shark which I find stunningly amusing) to get parked just off the Cowley Road, ready for a swift exit. We then decide, after some deliberation, to eat at The Atomic Burger. It was a passable eatery and majored on Sci-Fi and cartoon legends, including a long video loop of the likes of Star Trek, Skippy, Wonder Woman and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The latter resonated strongly later, which was a nice link. Don't suppose Nigel popped in earlier and was suitably inspired? I was quite disgruntled that I couldn't find a Stretch Armstrong hanging around the rim of the ceiling. Ho hum.

So; to events within the Academy. I suppose it is sensible to inaugurate the music review with the set-list: -

Sealclubbing, Squabblefest, Evening Sun, Leeuwarden, Left Lyrics, CAMRA, DPAK, Tommy Walsh, Dean Friedman, Excavating Rita, Restless Legs, NSD, Bob Wilson, Mountain Bikes, JDOG, Look Dad, Chatteris, Shit Arm, 24 Hour Garage People, Little in the Way of Sunshine, Bad Wools, Ordinary to Enschede, Bob Todd. Encores: Fix It So She Dreams of Me, O Caroline (Matching Mole?), Trad. Arr. Tune, AOR.

In a break with tradition, I'll try a few words about the actual music. The sound was very good, demonstrated by the fact that Nigel's lyrics were very clear. Even Mrs. C. caught it all. She was (as one who only hears it very occasionally) distinctly impressed with 24 Hour Garage People, all 27 hours of it. Apparently, an inside source tells me that Ken had a new amp, which could have made all the difference! After a rather leisurely opening, with a mellow (but rather good) version of Sealclubbing, a brave kick-off strategy to my mind; we then motored along picking up speed and enjoying more and more of Nigel's repartee with the gathered band of zealous worshippers.

Let's start with a few snippets; some jovial one-liners. Norman Collier was due to appear at the Leveson tomorrow. I once played golf with him. He's a better comedian than he is a golfer. "Joy in Leeuwarden" was introduced as being written by Nigel on horseback. Ken was the first man in Wallasey to get screw-in studs. "We've brought some weather with us; we go out, the sun goes in". They had arrived via the Granary Museum of Bygones, which was near a village called Chesterton; "I remember that, because it went through my mind on the way past, 'Oh, G. K. Chesterton, boom, boom, boom'. Nice place, but take a flask. Finally, Malcolm Shotton was in the audience and got a good shout. It was a shame that Jim Magilton wasn't there. His fame was garnered with the Tractor Boys (I still remember fondly the seminal hat-trick against the Trotters in the 2000 play-offs), but he completed a solid stint at The Manor Ground.

Poor old Roger (Green) was once again in the firing line. I say poor, but it is definitely a compliment. "We'll be seeing you next year after your relegation (Roger, I'm sure, is a Donny Rovers sympathizer). I'll be standing there watching the match and you'll be down by the boards writing notes; 'at 3:25 he infiltrated the home end'." There was also a gentleman in the congregation that made a number of shouts for "27 Yards of Dental Floss". Unfortunately, impassioned pleas and possibly beer eventually combined to lead to a shout for "27 Hours of Dental Floss". Nigel leapt upon it immediately; "27 hours is it now? 27 hours of dental yardage. We'll do it next time. You're gonna have sleepless nights worrying about that one." Sir; I am with you. Haven't heard for ages and would love it if it were rolled out at Leeds next week. We can do but hope.

There were a number of interjections from the audience that seemed to feed the Blackwell ad-libbing. Someone mentioned his book shops, which he got round to realizing after initially wondering where it was going; "Yeah, yeah, yeah; it's the same as my Uncle Chris at Island Records. You should see the suit me and him (points at Neil) make." Very Savile Row, I am sure. Riding the Oxford theme, there was a shout for "Blood on the Quad". "More of a Cambridge gig one really that. They don't punt on the Backs here, do they? Unless it's some euphemism or something. You have to watch what you say here."

The Derby was mentioned and Nigel had a tip for us; "Dirty Carpet - it's never been beaten." Also; "I backed a horse at ten-to-one and it came in at five-past-three." The revolving spotlight created much merriment; despite Nigel's wish, it was not there to deliver dry ice, just light. He was amused that it had just knocked Neil's water over. There was a shout from the crowd in relation to it, which I didn't quite catch, but was along the lines of it moving in time to the Hancock Acolytes? Nigel countered with an; "Open the pod bay doors, HAL." It took me back to the Atomic Burger a couple of hours previously.

'Homes Under the Hammer' was brought up and Nigel admitted that he was only speaking to 2% of the audience. I guess that I am one of the 98%. He's worked out what's wrong with it; "Martin Roberts - has he got his hands glued together? Watch it tomorrow; well, you don't have to." There was a tribute to the Olympic Torch coming to Birkenhead tomorrow. "Who'd have thought that? May the Lord have mercy upon us." The last line of 'Mountain Bikes' was; "....that's when I was saying that the torch would be abused."

As ever, the rambling and predictably constructed MC review ultimately meanders to 24 Hour GP. Or, as Nigel introduced it in deference to Sir Third Rate Les; "27 Hour Garage People". Leadbelly has Talk Sport on, bless him. The Pringles were Texas BBQ Sauce flavour. Once again, our narrator teased us with what we thought was an industry-related technical FACT, but in the unfolding descriptive, turned out to be a jape; "The tray service device into which he flings the Pringles is called a 'Roscoe' in the trade. After Roscoe Tanner; because he's a good server." Anyway, the Pringles were a staggering £2.84, as opposed to £2.49 in Sainsbury's. "I know this because I've been there today. That's how I also know that there is Texas BBQ Sauce flavor. Also available in Sea Salt."

A queue is now forming and he's noticed that a Minibus is turning up. "But I've noticed it's the local Rambler's Association. They're a happy-go-lucky lot and I actually know the Treasurer. He's a lovely man, but he goes on a bit." Ever mindful of the needs of the dedicated fan, Nigel pauses; "In your own time, Roger." It's not easy getting all this stuff down to satiate the thirst of the desert-dwelling punters that can't get here; I can vouch!

"Look yonder, it's town character, Lost Oliver. He thinks I'm a nuisance, wait 'till he meets him! No-one knows why he's called Lost Oliver, which is why when the UK Town Character Top Trumps is issued, which it should have been years ago, Lost Oliver will be a powerful character to play; because HE actually knows where he is at any given moment. The driver of the minibus is staying put, so if no-one wants fuel, they'll all want food and Lost Oliver will undoubtedly be asking for a can of Nitromors Boost and a street map of Peterhead."

Leadbelly is getting serious now; the Giant Bumper Puzzle Book goes down. "Dot-to-dot of classic Bristish motorcycles. He likes to think of himself as a BSA man - Big Sweaty Armpits. Must be the leathers." A fellow in the Ramblers says not to upset him too much, because he's got a 9th Dan is something or other. "It wasn't Customer Relations." A parishioner suggests it might be origami? "You say origami, that's alright; I've got a black belt in origami myself. You won't be laughing later (they were, as you can picture) when I turn you into a yacht." Leadbelly is now redder than a crimson thing. (Yes, that's what he said). "He puts down the mini-portable DVD, which he's been watching with one eye whilst serving me. He finally puts it down and I can hear what he's been listening to; 'Open the pod bay doors, HAL. HAL, open the pod bay doors.' 'I can't do that, Dave. Oh, and Dave; what sandwiches have you got.....'."

So, another fine evening and the bonus of a short journey home for your interlocutor. Also, double bonus of another gig the following week. These short-gap double headers are great, with just enough time to slip a review in and focus at work to get some stuff 'in the bank', as it were. There is no better focus than pending time-off to clear the back-logs. Sail north to Leeds, fair ship. Hope to see you there.