Joe Costello ventures into very chartered territory to watch Half Man Half Biscuit.
My annual trip to Bilston and my annual five minutes spent pondering exactly how many times I have seen Half Man Half Biscuit.
Following last year’s visit, I was told of something akin to a pre-gig dressing room squabblefest and recent postings on the internet indicate that there were only three lads who shook the Wirral taking to the stage at some shows last year. This seemed to be borne out by the gent I spotted in Café Metro beforehand sporting a t-shirt bearing the names of the band members but with Hancock cruelly and crudely redacted with gaffa tape.
Sure enough, as they opened with Stuck on a Hornbeam, the presence of A N Other on guitar was notable. Reports vary on whether he was called Gary or Karl (or he could be Mike) but he and the rest of the band seemed to be enjoying themselves for the near two hour set which was good to see and although the sound was often poor, the resulting shuffling of monitors was mildly diverting.
A new album is apparently just a few weeks away. Sadly they unveiled no new material from it last night but a moot point when your entire back catalogue is made up of crowd pleasers whether it’s the old staples like The Bastard Son of Dean Friedman, the rarely performed Emerging from Gorse or new favourites such as The Bane of Constance. It’s a testament to their output over the years that they can omit Fred Titmus and you don’t miss it.
The between song exchange of chat and trivia with the front row is as much fun as the actual music with Nigel bemoaning the repositioning of the monitors as “interfering with my stage-craaaft”, telling us of his friend Sid from Kingstanding who was a victim of ID theft “Now he’s just called S” and that Boney M singer Bobby Farrell died in St Petersburg on 30th December “Can you guess who else died in St Petersburg on 30th December? And if anybody did The Twilight Zone thing there, can we have them ejected?”
Tonight’s encore featured a cover of the Stranglers Something Better Change, which I had to look up being far too young for punk, despite some calls for something by The Fall, “too obvious”, and finishing with Light at the End of the Tunnel. Heading out into the drizzle, I now realise I forgot to look out for the obligatory Birkenhead Car and Van Hire transit but perhaps I’ll see it in Leamington in April for what would be, in answer to my own question, the 18th time I’ve seen them.