O2 Ritz, Manchester, Fri 28th Jan 2022 (29/01/22)

Roger Green:

Santa did not deliver any directly HMHB-related pressies. Although product surfaced from a couple of regular support acts at these shows. Christmas With Evan Dando is new from The Humdrum Express while As The River Flows is just out from Zinney Sonnenberg. Both are welcome additions to my collections and I'm hoping both will be appearing on stage supporting HMHB some time in 2022.

There was a fine report on the game between Pontefract Collieries and Pickering Town. Gavin Rothery's winning penalty was delivered "with aplomb". Well, after all, where else do you see that word?

Nigel was the subject of a Question And Answer session on the internet station Radio Glannau Dyfrdwy. Nigel himself didn't appear. Instead his answers, presumably from an exchange of emails, were read out by the presenter. There was reference to Descent Of The "Stripper" Stones, and when asked if they had a nemesis, Nigel replied "No, but we do have an Aldi and a Lidl."

Early January brought news of a new album from the band, The Voltarol Years. Cricket commentator David Lloyd, aka Bumble, took to Twitter to discuss this with his mate Robert Brocklehurst, and he included a cutting from his column in the, er, Daily Mail.

Andrew informed me that he had been involved in the Phase Three development of Voltarol. I was keen to find out more. It was in the late 1970s. Andrew reported that his contribution was to buy the Daily Mirror, make the tea, and talk football. All valid stuff.

Chris's site featured contributions from New Zealand, pondering the possibility of the band playing there. Well, subject to virus restrictions of course, we would be booking seats on the next plane. I've been to NZ a couple of times. But not sure of what venues the band might play. I stopped in Auckland both times I was in the country. Karen's research tells me that The Gluepot, Windsor Castle and Mainstreet Cabaret (where The Fall recorded their Fall In A Hole LP) have all been swallowed up by city development. But I'm sure the suburb of Birkenhead would provide them with a warm welcome. HMHB could squeeze into a corner of the lounge bar at the bowls club. Here's hoping. Back with The Fall, I saw someone on Twitter saying it was unfortunate that the opportunity had been missed for them to represent the Royaume Uni in The Eurovision Song Contest. But it was said that there was still a chance for HMHB to do the job. Eurovision? Is that more or less likely than a trip to NZ? Can Nigel, Neil, Karl and Carl get a dance routine sorted out, do you think?

The day of the gig got off to a bad start. Karen reported being wide awake at 4.06. But I suppose that's inevitable on gig days. It was only mid-morning when we got to Wakefield Westgate station, however Greggs had already run out of pain au chocolat. Had to go for one of their chocolate doughnuts instead. Excellent for fighting high blood pressure and cholesterol. In other health matters, chapped hands are not good when you are taking notes. But all was sorted out with a liberal application of O'Keeffe's Working Hands cream. I bought mine from my local Co Op. I'm guessing it's widely available.

The paper review took in The Manchester Evening News. There was nothing about HMHB, but they did mention that Harry Styles is playing at The Etihad. On the other hand, Metro had a splash. There was a picture of the band loading their gear into a van which looks like it will be the front cover of the new album. This was accompanied by some blurb. "In 1985 Wirral's Half Man Half Biscuit topped the indie album chart ahead of Depeche Mode, New Order and The Cult with a record made in a couple of days and for around 30. The album, Back In The DHSS, was championed by John Peel, for whom they did a total of twelve sessions over the years. Ahead of their fifteenth album, The Voltarol Years, they're back on the road for only a handful of gigs." The opening line in Twydale's Lament came to mind when Karen read a letter in the same paper, written by Lizzie from Liverpool. It was part of a debate on changes to The Highway Code... "...When I have been in a car driven by a friend or family member, they have always given way to pedestrians when turning into side roads... Those drivers too inconsiderate to do this, could they at least signal their intention by using their indicator?"

And so to the show. Tonight was an early start and early finish. We were queuing outside at not long after 6 o'clock, ready for doors opening at half past. On the way we met Graham Le Taxi and his mate (Scott?). They had heard the soundcheck, where the band played The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train. Also queuing up were Andrew, Tony, Postman Tony, John, Graham and Sarah, Phil, Mike and Jay. Busy night then.

Once inside, I noted Brassneck and The Only One I Know on the PA. And there were some decent home-made t-shirts. John was wearing a HMHB/Frank Sidebottom mash-up number, while Phil was at the cutting edge, having already designed an I'm Getting Buried In The Morning number. I paid a visit to Miles with the official merchandise. No sign of the new album yet, but I think we are all ready for the release. Not long now.

Had a chat with Andy about our epic journeys back home from the Frome gig last year. Hopefully it wouldn't be the same after today's show. Not quite as far for either of us to travel this time.

JD Meatyard was on stage at 7.15. As well as being accompanied by Gary on minimalist drums, John also had two guitarists with him. I didn't know all the songs but have heard Casper's Ballroom and Blow It Out Your Arse before. It would have been good to hear Ubu At Eric's, but that wasn't played tonight. "It's great to be back," said John, "Two years and five months since our last gig."

In the interval, we saw Nigel and Jo, Ian, and Howie without Daz, for some reason. HMHB emerged to the playing of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto. "You all right for bags?" asked Nigel. "Who is the pianist on that?" he also enquired. "Hats off to them." We noticed Karl was sporting a Moon Wiring Club t-shirt.

"Anyone know why the police helicopter is up?" he asked, before the band started the first song, She's In Broadstairs. Nigel pointed out someone in the crowd. "I remember that shirt from last time... Sort it out!" In Renfield's Afoot there was a recommendation to bring a torch, but not a police torch. In response to a shout from the crowd of "Who loves you, costermonger", Nigel responded "That's not your normal voice. You sound like a good old Cockney. We must play that song, but I can't remember the title."

We were told that Eddie Howe has never sneezed and, in turn, were reminded once again that Joe Hart has never yawned. "This is about neither of those people," said Nigel, ahead of What Made Colombia Famous. Asparagus Next Left was introduced thus. "This is about looking something up in my street map of Bedford, but not being able to find it."

There was a bit of technical chat with the sound desk. "Can you turn Karl's guitar up? Do you want mine turning down?" Karl's tuning up led to Nigel referencing Bill Sticker Nick from Trumpton. "There's an interesting story behind this next one," he said (without expanding) by way of introducing Twenty-Seven Yards Of Dental Floss. Similarly with Outbreak Of Vitas Gerulaitis... "This is a topical story."

I didn't pick up everything that was said about Connor Jennings, so owe this snippet of information to Andrew and Tony. Nigel's Auntie Sheila's family are Stockport County fans. Connor plays for them, having previously run out for Tranmere. So they all share a love of him. Apparently Nigel said that he has a picture of Connor on his kitchen wall.

I heard a slight amendment to the Reflections In A Flat lyric. "Then there's the time you slashed me / And I had to go to hospital," Just after that, Ian Woosnam was spotted in the crowd. He followed up with "I need those ladders back, Ian." Nigel raised a glass (actually, a plastic bottle of water) to Paul Burton ahead of National Shite Day. The sanderling was sent to Phil Cool with a SAE.

"Anyone in from Welwyn Garden City?" asked Nigel. He said he once went to the birds of prey centre there, but just went in the cafe to order tea and toast. "You don't get this with Newton Faulkner, do you? I don't own the skeleton of Ken Goodwin. But he does." There was an impressive holding of the last note of Knobheads On Quiz Shows by Nigel. So it's not all done with smoke and mirrors.

Nigel's introduction to Fix It So She Thinks Of Me referred back to his relatives in Offerton. "This is about someone who shares pictures of lost cats from other countries on their Facebook page. Hello Auntie Sheila." There was a reprise of one of Nigel's jokes. He was out cycling and saw a dead fox and a suitcase full of cubs. He rang the RSPCA. They asked Nigel if they were moving. Nigel said "Well, that would explain the suitcase."

One or two songs were thrown in to the show which have not been heard for a while. Here is how it went.

She's In Broadstairs
Running Order Squabble Fest
Renfield's Afoot
Asparagus Next Left
What Made Colombia Famous
Twenty-Seven Yards Of Dental Floss
Outbreak Of Vitas Gerulaitis
Restless Legs
Reflections In A Flat
Vatican Broadside
I'm Getting Buried In The Morning
Harsh Times In Umberstone Covert
National Shite Day
Knobheads On Quiz Shows
Bob Wilson Anchorman
Fix It So She Dreams Of Me
We Built This Village On A Trad Arr Tune
All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
See That My Bike's Kept Clean
For What Is Chatteris?
Everything's AOR
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train
The Trumpton Riots

And in the encore there were four songs. A hearty singalong of "Get your hedge cut" took place as the four came back on stage.

Fuckin' 'Ell It's Fred Titmus
Every Time A Bell Rings
Holiday In Cambodia
Joy Division Oven Gloves

This was all as per Karl's set list, which was kindly handed over by Neil when he came back on stage to clear stuff away. It was interesting to see that the set list was a photocopy. One step down the slippery slope towards being typed out? There was only one amendment to the original list being the inclusion of "Fred Titmus" which was requested from the floor when the band returned for the encore.

The morning after the show, we saw a video on That's TV channel of We Built This City by Starship. It would have been rude not to sing We Built This Village over and above it. And we also heard a mention of a couple from Urmston who had sent a message to Radcliffe And Maconie saying that they had been to the show at The Ritz.

After hearing that, we were back to Oxford Road station for the train back east. The next gig is just down the road in Sheffield. Only a fortnight to wait. A pair of glasses went unclaimed at this gig. Maybe Nigel still has them ready to be claimed at The Leadmill.