Stylus, Leeds University Union, Thu 7th June 2012 (09/06/12)

Roger Green:

HMHB gigs in Leeds never seem quite right. It always feels like I should be checking into the nearest Travelodge some time late afternoon, making sure that I know where the venue is, and checking out the timetables for getting home in the morning. No such problems with Leeds University. Just over half an hour from door to door, including picking Mark up. Been to the Uni on many occasions, including a spectacular failure of a French A Level spoken exam. More importantly, I reckon this is the third time HMHB have visited this seat of learning. It was their second appearance at Stylus, having also taken to the stage in the Riley Smith Hall on a very foggy Friday in January 1992. Maybe Stylus is becoming their natural home in this city. They have played various spots here and there since the tragic closure of The Duchess. Tonight, in particular, felt just right. Far and away it was the best show so far this year (out of three). By the way, can anyone confirm whether or not Stylus occupies the same space as The Harvey Milk Bar in days gone by? That was certainly tucked away in the body of the university, but I can't remember exactly where. Happy memories of a great show by Serious Drinking circa 1984.

Excuse me while I refer to The Yorkshire Post's Culture section. Their musical "Things To Do" list for the week had HMHB at Number One. Just ahead of Leeds University Liturgical Choir's performance of Tommy Tallis's Spem In Alium. I'll search for a review of that gig as well. I'm sure there must have been somebody down at the front with pen and paper.

Tony and I had a quick chat with Ken beforehand. He was in the venue, psyching himself up. Or down. Sounds like it is a quiet summer coming up for the band. And, anyway, he was off outside for a smoke.

Just one support band tonight. Rojan could have got away with being extras in an ABC video. The guy on the trumpet was in sandals. Always good to see a casual approach. Their set featured a Pixies cover. Nimrod's Son.

HMHB made their entrance with Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto ringing out of the PA. The idea was to then move seamlessly into their first song. But it all went a bit flat as Neil was not quite ready to go. I suppose we all get used to that kind of thing. The gap gave Nigel the time to announce that the day before had been Neil's birthday. And so came a hearty rendition of Happy Birthday from one and all. Very civilized. And nearly straightaway we had the first shout of "What Did God Give Us, Neil?". "What a great contribution to Parliamentary debate," replied Nigel. I noticed that the robot lights had followed the band from the Oxford gig. Both Nigel and Carl had trouble reading their set lists, so obviously modern technology is not that good after all. Nigel mentioned the Hungry Horse in Brighouse. "I don't normally like The Hungry Horse, but the one in Brighouse is OK," he said. "They booked an Evening Of Clairvoyance there. But it was cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances."

Further cries from the crowd for "Hattie Jacques", "Dental Floss" and even "Ronnie Moore"! Not long before the capo came out. "Pity I didn't have one of these in 1985," mused Nigel. "I got this one for £25 from a proper music shop." He then helpfully remembered to point out to Neil that the repeat of Antiques Roadshow that morning had been from somewhere near to where they live. Top quality note-taking, I didn't catch the name. Drama in the press box when I lost my pen-top during Excavating Rita. A request for Mr Blue Sky was met by the opening chords of said song. They'll do it in full one day, just you wait. A Lilac Harry Quinn recovered from a stuttering start. What Did God Give Us, Neil? There was a bit of Tranmere talk. They have just signed the well-travelled Ben Burgess. Is Burger Van really his nickname? Nigel is backing Tranmere to finish exactly half way in the league table. During a bit of between-songs twiddling by Ken, Nigel pointed out that it sounded like The Residents. Another band worth covering, perhaps? Ahead of Dean Friedman, Nigel announced "I wrote this song in earlier times, when blood ran swiftly through my veins." A couple of lines of poetry followed. See an English Literature teacher for more details. He also sang (to the tune of When The Saints Go Marching In) "Oh when the kids go back to school, there'll be peace and quiet on the buses."

Tony got into a conversation with Nigel about Tchaikovsky's piano concertos. Nigel had been under the impression that there were only two, but there were infact three. Tony pointed out that the third had been incomplete until Siloti had finished it off. (Tony texted me the day after the gig, to explain that Taneyev had also had a hand in completing this particular work.) "So he couldn't be arsed to finish it himself," said Nigel. "I like Tchaikovsky now." Ken: the first man in Wallasey to have Chicken Jalfrezi. There was some fine feedback at the end of Look Dad No Tunes. What Did God Give Us, Neil? Vatican Broadside was preceded by a snippet of "the greatest country song ever - by George Jones." Long overdue appearance of Victoria for Gubba Lookalikes. I didn't hear the request in question, but Nigel responded by announcing "I'm not Tim Minchin!" Must have been a good question though. I got spotted. Further out to the left than usual. Likened to Leighton James in that respect. The football theme moved on to Joe Harte. At one point it seems he was on loan at Tranmere, and was featured in the Player Profile feature in the match programme. Joe had been invited to tell the readers something unusual about himself. He answered "1. I'm at Tranmere." And "2. I have never yawned." Celebrities, eh.

Sorry, but as usual I missed tons from 24 Hour Garage People. The gist is as follows. Saying "Talk Sport" instead of "Talk Radio" now seems to have stuck. The crisps were Sour Cream And Brine(?). But the guy serving came back with a wide grin to announce that they didn't have any Pringles! So it was Ridges instead. The tray device is now called a Curtly (Ambrose: a nice action). Just as the atmosphere is getting frayed, a tanker pulls up in the forecourt. "Oh sorry sir, you'll have to wait half an hour." But fortunately the driver is Nigel's mate, Andy. Andy wants a seeded batch loaf, a Roger De Courcey fridge magnet (just Roger De Courcey), Plantagenet Volume One, and a John Wayne Gacy autobiography. "Do you have a list?" "No, it's just my dodgy hip." The IPod comes off and it's "Finished with my woman cos she wouldn't answer when I rang." And there is a bit of Barry Manilow as well. And HMHB themselves. There was also a tale in there about a chameleon which died of exhaustion while making its way across a tartan rug.

Before the end of the main set, there was a valiant attempt to do Climie Fisher, but the words seemed to be beyond Nigel's recollection. Maybe another time. The moshpit was exceptional during Joy Division Oven Gloves. Taste Of Cindy by The Jesus And Mary Chain was tonight's cover. In the encore, the ballboy's mishap in A Country Practice provided an excuse to remind everyone that Wimbledon was imminent. Surprisingly there was no mention of the wristbands which everyone in both bands were wearing.

Is this a good point to introduce a new dimension into these reviews? Not sure if this level of detail is required, but it might be useful to students of the concept of time. It's all in British Summer Time, post meridian.

9.04 The Light At The End Of The Tunnel
9.07 Joy In Leeuwarden
9.10 When The Evening Sun Goes Down
9.14 Bob Wilson Anchor Man
9.16 Ordinary To Enschede
9.20 Fred Titmus
9.24 Excavating Rita
9.28 A Lilac Harry Quinn
9.34 Running Order Squabble Fest
9.37 Left Lyrics In Practice Room
9.40 The Bastard Son Of Dean Friedman
9.44 National Shite Day
9.51 Tommy Walsh's Eco House
9.55 Look Dad No Tunes
10.00 Vatican Broadside
10.01 Gubba Lookalikes
10.07 For What Is Chatteris?
10.10 All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
10.15 Rock N Roll Is Full Of Bad Wools
10.20 24 Hour Garage People
10.29 Little In The Way Of Sunshine
10.33 Fix It So She Thinks Of Me
10.37 Joy Division Oven Gloves

And in the encore

10.42 Taste Of Cindy
10.44 We Built This Village On A Trad Arr Tune
10.47 A Country Practice
10.55 Everything's AOR

Dropped Tony off in the city centre, and back home before midnight. Thanks to him and Mark for the bits that I missed. Mark's mate Mark (at his first HMHB gig) loved the show. Say no more.