Cameron Cooper discovers the joys of Half Man, Half Biscuit.
I didn’t know what to expect as I entered Bilston’s premier concert venue. I’d done a bit of prior listening to a few of the band’s better known songs but surrounded by HMHB obsessives, I felt I’d just be standing there, beer in hand, wondering when they’d play Joy Division Oven Gloves so I could at least give singing along a try. However, this turned out to be far from the case.
“That’s another one of our dynamic entrances,” singer Nigel Blackwell joked as they ambled on to the stage before him and his Mersey ensemble played out a twenty-five song set starting out with Asparagus Next Left and mixing classics that long-time HMHB fans could enjoy such as Fred Titmus, with more recent material, including two songs from the new album Urge For Offal, which seemingly all concert-goers – myself included – fully got on board with.
It didn’t take long before even I was joining in with a few songs that I’d occasionally heard a few seconds of here and there on 6Music. Nigel made sure he announced that Reflections In a Flat starts in E Minor just so he could say “all toilets in the world flush in E Minor” which elicited quite a few cheap laughs, one admittedly from me.
Blackwell and co. came back out for a final encore, after most of the packed crowd refused to budge until they re-appeared. The encore and the night’s music ended with the classic Trumpton Riots, with the crowd-pleasing finale also including a cover of the Beatles’ Bungalow Bill, which I’d never heard before. Live and learn, eh?
Sadly, as the cliché goes, all good things must come to an end; Nigel ‘human sat nav’ Blackwell (he called himself that telling of how he guided bassist Neil Crossley to Bilston in spite of a closure to the M53) picked up his A to Z and they were gone again. Some fans hoped for a second encore, to which a bloke somewhere in front of me remarked “You can clap all you like, they’re not f****ng coming back!” He expressed it terribly, but he was right. The lights went up, Pretty Vacant started playing from the sound system and Half Man Half Biscuit were gone.
In the end, there was no Too Much Too Young, despite one man in the crowd’s repeated calls for that and 27 Yards of Dental Floss – which Blackwell did think about but forgot the first line and so did the heckler – but where there wasn’t excessive oral hygiene, there was a night of thoroughly enjoyable satirical melodies that sent everyone in attendance happy, even those, like me, with no HMHB live experience and the lucky ones with slightly intoxicated partners to contend with. Thanks to Nigel, the rest of Half Man Half Biscuit and the Robin for a great night all round.
Half Man Half Biscuit can be found live next at the O2 Academy in Leicester on Thursday October 23rd. Tickets can be found at: www.o2academyleicester.co.uk