A question from the floor. Well actually it was from Tony. With us being in the middle of a trio of England-Scotland -Wales gigs (Hull-Edinburgh-Llangollen), he was wondering if it had ever happened before where three consecutive gigs had covered the three different countries. Upon investigation, we only have to go back to 2019, when the band straddled the island between March and June with gigs in Cardiff, Newcastle and Edinburgh. See also 2011, when they had a run of Edinburgh-Kendal-Cardiff. Gez's records only go back to when the internet was manufactured in 1996 using old Corn Flakes packets and sticky-back plastic. I suspect anything beyond that would require consultation with the diaries of dear old Geoff.
Errors and omissions. I forgot to mention that the Hull gig was on the hundredth anniversary of the first FA Cup final at Wembley. David Jack, Billie the white horse and all that. I'm anticipating something similar at the Llangollen gig in July. Tickets for the HMHB show have sold out, but priority tickets for the whole festival were still on sale, when we last looked. It includes "priority entry to all our main events" - one of which is the sold out HMHB show. It will be interesting to see what happens if all the people with priority tickets get let in first, and then those with just HMHB tickets can't get in. Or vice versa. Will it be like the Battle Of Towton all over again? Bearing that in mind, you might also want to move quick with the three other shows this year. Bristol, Wolverhampton, Holmfirth are all still available, but you don't know for how long.
Stop Press. Another one has been added. The band has opened its account for 2024. They will be at The Boiler Shop in Newcastle on Friday 9th February. Beware though. Reading their website, The Boiler Shop appears to have a "no football shirts" policy. What? Does that even apply to Dukla, Honved and Ferencvaros?
Other gigs are still not quite happening for us. We had marked in the diary another show by HMHB's near-neighbours The Webb in Leeds. But you know how it is. Get home from work. Sod it. Off to bed. We made a solemn vow to catch them the next time they are this side of the hills. Talking about solemn vows, it was the Coronation gig that same weekend. We went out in the car with Voyage To The Bottom Of The Road in the CD player.
Vicky Leandros of Whit Week Malarkey (and Eurovision) fame was mentioned briefly in the introduction to this year's show. Originally from Corfu, she won the competition representing Luxemburg decades ago. We lasted for half a dozen songs of this year's contest before our interest ran too thin. That was quite good going by our usual standards. Another personality mentioned in passing in a HMHB song is Bert Royal (in Footprints). Sad to hear about his passing. He and Vic Faulkner were a tag team, featuring regularly on ITV's World Of Sport back in the day.
More life imitating art. On the bus to Wakefield one of the passengers berated the driver for setting off before she had sat down. Just like Breaking News had never happened.
As we were making our way to Edinburgh on the train, the sad news came through about Andy Rourke's death. Karen and I are part of the HMHB/Smiths Venn diagram crossover. We are not alone, judging from the singalong to There Is A Light That Never Goes Out at the Leamington Spa gig earlier in the year. On the way, Karen noted the Angel Of The North had outstretched arms at quarter to three, and as we passed through Newcastle she noted that there was, contrary to Gazza's and Lindisfarne's claims, no fog on the Tyne.
Oh, and you know trains have electric plug sockets, so you can re-charge your mobile phone and/or laptop? We saw someone heating up her hair straighteners. Just wondering if you can take a microwave on board. Or maybe a record player?
After arriving in the city, we reminded ourselves of our route to the venue and took lunch at Bertie's Proper Fish And Chips restaurant, nearly next door to The Liquid Rooms. All good stuff. They even do deep fried Mars bars. After that fill of maximum cholesterol, it seemed natural that I should do a tour of Greyfriars cemetery. There were some very grand gravestones in there, but you are always left noticing the lack of memorials for the lower orders.
While out and about, I saw Neil. He had been topping up on his whisky supplies. Like you do. No goss on any future shows, I'm afraid. I suppose the announcement in the week about the Newcastle show is enough to be going on with.
The press review took me in the direction of The Scotsman. They had a decent feature on The Damned, but there was no gig page or similar. Likewise in The Edinburgh Evening News. No word at all on the fact that HMHB were in town.
Everything in the evening's schedule was slightly earlier than normal. Doors open at 7.00 and doors closing at 10.00. This called for a prompt arrival outside the venue. Even then, we had been beaten to the punch by Graham and Sarah, and were only just ahead of Andrew and Phill. Others hovering around were Brian and Mrs Brian, Graham Le Taxi, and Steve H. Both Andrew and Graham had forsaken a crucial Bolton Wanderers match for the sake of this gig. Didn't turn out to be a bad decision in the end.
There seemed to be a bit of a delay with letting folk in where they had e-tickets. We had paper ones (remember them?), a swift tear off and we were straight through. I talked with Miles at the merch stall. Nothing new in stock, so it was down to the front to catch up with one and all. Mike, Elizabeth, George, John, Steve A, Chris, Ian, Lou, Jay and Thorsten. Andy was paying homage to Statler and Waldorf with his perch up on the balcony. Hearty greetings to Chris's son Alex, who was making his debut tonight. It was a good effort from Thorsten, travelling over from Germany. But the gold medal went to Lorna for her jaunt from New Hampshire. That award was on the assumption that there was no one else there who had travelled further.
Some fine tunes were coming out of the PA. Notably The Sweetest Girl. Not heard that for years and years. Just Like Honey and O Superman were also played. I just had time for an exchange of Hellos with Nigel and Jo from Goole, and then JD Meatyard was on stage.
Actually, it was just JD. John Donaldson. I'm not sure if the band is still a going force. He has the same vitriolic approach, with or without them. At the end of his set, I shouted for his list of songs, but none was forthcoming. All I could recognise were Standing On The Shoulders, That's The Story Of My Life, Pablo Picasso and his best song, Ubu At Erics. John keeps aiming for the non-Daily Mail audience. I can't see anything wrong with that. He often fits these HMHB supports with a couple of gigs of his own. On this occasion, he was heading to the Celtic match on the Saturday, and then seemingly back home to Spain.
Reports came through that Postman Tony was running late. He was having his own personal National Shite Day as a result of train cancellations and having to make up an alternate route. As it turned out, he made it through the door just in time for HMHB's set. Shite Day was a theme on the trains. Andrew, Steve H and Andy all also reported delays.
It was a nice gesture that HMHB's walk-on music was There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. As at Leamington this generated a good singalong. Nigel said "Andy Rourke RIP" before the first song, hmm, I wonder if there was a deliberate Light/Light link there? A couple of notes on band attire. Carl had his 3743 t-shirt, while Karl was wearing one from Skeleton Records. I'm not sure which direction the venue faces, so I can't be sure if Nigel was correct when pointing to "Kent, Gwent, Senegal". The only celebrity spotting of the evening was Lawson Craddock.
"This is our third song" announced Nigel before the band played I'm Getting Buried In The Morning. There was an exchange with a guy in the crowd. "I remember you from twenty years ago. Well, actually I remember your shirt. It could do with an external aerial". And there was a line, possibly to the same person... "Did I see you at the Scottish Owl Centre yesterday? They've missed a trick,it should really be called 'Hoots Mon'".
During Fred Titmus, a punter was escorted from one side of the moat to the other. Nigel hoped he would be let back in. In Renfield's Afoot, "booking was absolutely essential, in block capital letters, even though it was a free event". No police torches, of course. Nigel repeated Tony's joke about going to see the Camera Obscura. But he couldn't find it.
A photographer was patrolling in the moat. Nigel struck up a good pose for him. Neil's intro to Awkward Sean was a few lines from The Saints Are Coming. Nigel's quibble in Petty Sessions was "That was a five-pound note." And while in the meadow of consolation in Tending The Wrong Grave, Karl did the usual guitar treble notes. To which Nigel noted "I wasn't expecting Johnny Greenwood." And he said that the glebe cow must have been a Friesian. It was another true story.
Eno Collaboration included a solo by Nigel on a toy car horn. That definitely added to the feel and structure. Nigel's guitar needed tuning, so he swapped instruments with Karl while he played Rock O' My Soul and Vatican Broadside. The usual requests from the floor were met with the usual response... "Len Ganley? Yes, that's one of ours." There were two covers tonight. A splash of Orange Juice in the main set, then X-Ray Spex in the encore.
Nigel talked about an idea for a t-shirt, which he can't be arsed to get off the ground. A crossover between Bod and Breaking Bad. Breaking Bod, of course. Nevertheless, look out for it in the shops. He liked one punter's constant chuckling "It's like being at a Ken Goodwin concert," he added. "King of comedy." During Hedley Verityesque Karl played the guitar behind his head. "I taught him that," said Nigel, demonstrating the same manoeuvre, and he suggested that Neil should do the same with the bass. Some other time, eh?
Midnight Mass Murder was dedicated to the vicar of St. Giles. There was a bit more car horn during that one. It produced a good response from the floor. As Tony said to me afterwards, "I think it's fair to say it's a crowd pleaser." After that, Nigel realised he had left his capo in the dressing room. While he went to fetch it, Carl, Neil and Karl struck up with Busy Little Market Town. On his return, Nigel said "The Band, ladies and gentlemen". He also had other equipment problems, a regular feature being the lead coming out of his guitar. This time it happened during The Trumpton Riots.
Another regular feature is the appearance of Nigel's caravan guitar for the encore. "One thing it won't be is in tune," he assured us. "It's going to Abersoch next week. Well, near Abersoch. That's too expensive. A bit better than Rhyl though."
Apologies to Phil for knocking into him while he was filming Germ Free Adolescents on his phone. There was plenty of the Status Quo guitar move with Nigel and Karl during Joy Division Oven Gloves. And at the end of the show, Nigel signed off with "Have a great weekend, weatherwise or otherwise."
By my reckoning, this was the running order:The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train
And then in the encore:We Built This Village On A Trad Arr Tune
Thanks to Karl for handing over his set list to Karen, being my proxy while I was scribbling a note down. Consolation Prize was not listed, and they didn't play the whole thing, but a fair chunk. And Busy Little Market Town only appeared because Nigel had left the stage to get his capo. (By the way... Nice vault back onto the stage when you returned, Nigel.)
Afterwards, a few of us went for a beer at The Albanach on The Royal Mile - Karen, me. Andrew, Phill, Steve, Andy, Jo and Nigel. A very sociable end to the evening. We will meet again in Llangollen in a few weeks - assuming that the ticket situation is in order.
Saturday morning came, and it was time to surrender the city to The Beyonce Massive. They were there in numbers, heading to Murrayfield stadium. Each to their own. We can't all like the same things. I'm guessing that her walk-on music was Dead Cities. Cover version? Lazy Line Painter Jane. I am sure that someone would be taking notes there.