Take four

Half Man Half Biscuit hit the M6 to Bilston. Dave Woodhall is an independent witness.

“Did you go anywhere before the gig?  No, not a pub. We went to the remains of Halesowen Abbey.”

Yes, those lovable funsters Half Man Half Biscuit are in town again, performing to the usual gaggle of fortysomethings who refuse to act their age plus a smattering of younger people who know a good thing when they’re introduced to it. Talking of introductions, how many bands walk on stage and won’t start their set because they’re listening to the song coming through the PA? Nantucket Sleighride by Mountain. The Weekend World theme.

Their cultural appetites sated, the band kick off the set with Asparagus Next Left, which they don’t often play and Ordinary to Enschede, which they do sometimes. Typically Biscuit, songs with titles that at first glance mean nothing then think about them a bit and they’re recognisable reference points.

I’ve said before how difficult it is to review a HMHB gig because they’re playing much the same songs, to much the same audience – I would guess that a fair proportion of the crowd travel to all the band’s ‘engagements.’ Most of the usual favourites were here, although surprisingly there was no run-out for 24 Hour Garage People (a problem with Pringles distribution perhaps?) Instead we got, amongst others, a rare outing for Footsteps and Fear My Wraith.

Then again, you could also argue that the songs get in the way of a vintage HMHB performance. Nigel’s intros and conversations with the audience (I doubt he’d sink so low as to call it ‘banter’) touched on the usual absurdities of life; the prospect of gang warfare between Matlock and Matlock Bath, the identity of the first man in Wallasey to own a Frisbee, how to gain entrance to the Wirral’s most exclusive night club in the early eighties. As he says at the start of Buena Vista Social Club, “Has anyone here been to Brazil? D’yer want a medal?”

There’s a bit of rockism creeping in, with ungainly use of a riser and drum solo during Irk the Purists that mercifully wasn’t too long. Less of it please – you’ll be calling Bilston the rock’n’roll capital of the world next.

The encore included Rhinestone Cowboy and local favourite Monmore Hare’s Running. Then, a second rush back on stage for eighties faves Dukla Prague Away Kit and the Trumpton Riots, as relevant today as it was back then.

Who was it did Tiger Feet, Mud or Sweet? Mud? That’s right that’s right that’s right that’s right.