Cor blimey, it's a few years since I saw HMHB at this place. Twenty-nine in fact, near enough. My first two shows by the band were here. That was back in the days when the place was more of an arts centre than a night club, at the time of The People's Republic Of South Yorkshire. It was a real ale pub before there were real ale pubs. Wickets were dotted all along the bar, and many was the time that I wobbled back to the train station filled up with Old Rodger and its ilk.
Consultation with my mate Mark confirmed that the two shows were on Saturday 1 February 1986 and Tuesday 16 September 1986. The Fall (in particular), The Smiths and Bogshed were occupying my thoughts at that time, and it was in the pre-notetaking days. The only two things I can recall from that February gig are the opening tune (Busy Little Market Town) and the encore (The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine). Geoff confirmed that the band also appeared there in December 1991. I think I may have been pre-occupied with moving house for that one. Before long The Boardwalk had become the venue of choice in the city. But that place is No Go these days, and things have turned full circle. So here we were again. Karen and I were not sure about The Leadmill website's estimate of five gigs per year for the band. A bit of a conservative estimate to our minds.
Pre-gig I compared notes on the drive back from the Bury St Edmunds gig with Lee aka Dennis Bell. Confirmation that there was the biblical deluge which had been predicted by Nigel. It was also good to catch up with Andrew, surely the only Bolton Wanderers fan to be a season ticket holder at Lincoln City.
The support act was a new one to me. We were promised a "local folky three-piece", but I only counted two people on stage. Rhiannon and Pete collectively are Rita Payne. Very minimalist stuff - she on guitar/vocals, he on vocals, tambourine and one solitary cymbal. All very civilized stuff, with much clapping along, and worth investigating further. Most of the crowd were listening to them, but as so often, you could hear the general murmur of conversation rising above the sound from the stage. Shut up or go outside.
There was no walk-on music for HMHB. It's just something that you come to expect. Straightaway there was a shout of "What Did God Give Us, Neil?" from the Rotherham Postie. I chalked up a total of eight during the evening. It just felt like more. Nigel said that they were going to play the song in Glasgow next week, a challenge which Postie said he would be taking up. Also there were multiple shouts for Get Kramer and Satin Tour Jacket. And I heard one each for Rod Hull and Papworth General.
To the tune of When The Saints Go Marching In, Nigel sang "When the kids go back to school, it'll be quiet on the buses." That was followed by a bit of chat about the TV programme, On The Buses. Stephen Lewis (Inspector Blakey) had died recently. Nigel reckoned that his character had had a soft spot for Butler's Mum (played by Doris Hare). Nigel also reminded us that Reg Varney (who played Butler) was the first person in the country to use a cash point machine. And that Varney's tag line on his publicity material was "the best legs in showbiz". Before moving on, Nigel also remarked that someone, somewhere in the crowd would be doing an Inspector Blakey impersonation.
There was a request for Jackie Wilson Said, to which Nigel responded "I can do Leighton Rees Exclaimed." Another request for "anything from Godcore" led to what appeared to be an impromptu rendition of Feel My Wraith. Who needs rehearsals? At one point, just for a few seconds, Carl did a drum solo which sounded like the opening of The Stranglers' Nice And Sleazy. Nigel said that he saw Surging Out Of Convalescence on the set list, but couldn't remember how the song went.
Someone in the crowd got it slightly wrong when they misquoted the line about bands "taping out" their set list. However Nigel said this wasn't such a bad idea. "Perhaps we could get Neil to pre-record all the song titles." Worth working on...
I hope I've got the correct spelling of Gerulaitis this time. Often we get the "slippers" section of The Best Things In Life, but this time we got the full version of the song. Nigel explained the band's slightly late arrival in Sheffield. There had been a lorry fire around Junctions 34 and 35 on the M1. They should have travelled via Snake Pass. "It was like the Tower Of Babel." He wasn't sure how to pronounce that, but said it doesn't matter because you just put cream cheese on it.
We had an airing of Psycho, the song written by Leon Payne, and sung by Jack Kittel (among others, including Elvis Costello), as discussed previously at the most recent Leamington Spa gig. During the "bins" bit of Lark Descending, Nigel stuck his plectrum to his forehead. There was a shout for Old Tige, which Nigel said they couldn't do, because his Golden Retriever had died the previous Saturday. That had been a bad day all round for him. Tranmere had lost in the afternoon, and he was caught in the worst ever electrical storm later in the day.
Neil and Ken swapped instruments for The Bane Of Constance. Nigel totally forgot the words half way through Rock And Roll Is Full Of Bad Wools. Neil was introduced as the first man in Birkenhead to lambast croutons (when they started to appear in cup-a-soup). There was a shout for "Isolation". Nigel pointed to Neil and replied "Don't encourage him."
I'm an old fuddy duddy and I really don't think The Leadmill is a patch on what it used to be. But I would be more than happy to see it become the Sheffield venue in the future. The band has wandered around the city since The Boardwalk closed. But then I suppose I would watch them anywhere. I'm sure they could find a corner at the Sheffield Tap, the pub at the railway station. Now that would be worth seeing. The set tonight was:The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train
The gig seemed to be running late, but they still fitted in three songs in the encoreBob Wilson Anchorman
As ever, thanks to Karen and Tony for some of the technical points. Thanks to Gomez for the text about Robin Askwith now appearing in Emmerdale. Still not funny. It would be nice to hear Albert Hammond Bootleg some time, but that appears to be firmly in the back catalogue. And thanks most of all to Graham for the chip(s) as we walked back after the gig.