O2 Forum, Kentish Town, London, Fri 8th June 2018 (09/04/18)

Stephen Howell:

I've been a fan of these four lads who shook the Wirral since the 80's, but only saw them live for the first time last night - Friday 8th June 2018 in Kentish Town, North London. Despite being ostensibly a comedy act their live performance is well honed, presumably from their decades of experience being participators in and mockers of their chosen profession. They are good musicians.

It was interesting to try to spot among the crowd the common characteristics (aside from the obvious middle-age spread and CAMRA-man vibe) that HMHB fans share. But an appreciation for Nigel Blackwell's unique wit, gallows humour and eye for the humorous minutiae of life is not necessarily something you can see. It was also interesting to ponder on the tribalism of an event like this and the way in which, after walking away at the end of the gig, the concentration of HMHB fans rapidly thins to (very low) background levels within a couple of tube stops. Within minutes you're back among normal humanity again with only trace quantities of HMHB lovers, detectable only using specialist equipment.

Anyway, as these things generally tend to go, they started by warming us up with a number from the early days which all self-respecting fans should know by heart and be able to sing along with - "F**king 'ell, it's Fred Titmus!" (we all did), before embarking on a pleasant mixture of classics from their huge back-catalogue and new songs from the recently released album entitled "No-one Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your F**kin' Hedge Cut" - the familiar HMHB theme of mockery of all things deemed arty farty or pretentious is still there. We, the crowd, all sang along as loudly as we could to the songs we happened to know and left it to others when we didn't know them. Given the number of HMHB albums that have been released over the years there aren't many who can do this for all of them. But, I noticed, there were some. "For What Is Chatteris" was one of the occasions when I personally got to show off.

There wasn't a massive amount of crowd-band banter but there was some interaction between Nigel and his audience, featuring His characteristic love of the mundane. An advertisement for over-50s badminton which he had noticed the previous evening was commented upon, as well as an account of the road journey from Watford to the gig, with tongue-in-cheek attention to detail. The encour contained a surprising rendition of "London Calling" by "The Clash".

It was a great evening among like-minded oddballs, happily shouting out largely unfulfilled requests for favourite songs purely for the joy of stating their fantastic names. My favourite song name from the new album: "Man of Constant Sorrow with a Garage in Constant Use". Brilliant. Sadly, as I recall, it wasn't one of the songs from the new album that was played.