Gangsters, ghost towns and gloves, oven

Half Man Half Biscuit hit Coventry, accompanied by Dave Woodhall.

When you go to a gig in Coventry the headline can write itself – no matter how hard they try, the area around the HMV Empire isn’t pleasant. The venue’s not easy to find either, which was why a good few of us were wandering round aimlessly before spying someone in a Dukla Prague away shirt headed in what must have been the right direction.

When you get inside it’s not a bad venue, about the same size as the nearby Leamington Assembly but much more user-friendly. I’m not the greatest HMHB fan in the world, but I was with someone who’s up there with the best and I was of the opinion that my last couple of gigs hadn’t been the band’s finest hours. Maybe the rock’n’roll lifestyle was catching up with them, or maybe it’s old age.

And so on they sauntered, to the intro music from Coventry’s finest, Lieutenant Pigeon, and their greatest hit. And off they went – Bob Wilson Anchorman, Irk the Purists and Fred Titmus for starters.

You’d get your money’s worth at an HMHB gig even if there were no songs. The newly-bespectacled Blackie philosophised at length about Coventry’s old brown away kit, re-enacted the Ernie Hunt/Wille Carr donkey kick and wished happy birthday to someone he outed as a Manchester United supporter, “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you. They hate you with a vengeance, happy birthday to you.” There were also a few appalling ‘jokes’ about cinema managers and racehorses that don’t bear repeating.

God Gave Us Life was updated to include modern curses of civilisation Rod Liddle, Micah Richards and VAR. There were opportunities a-plenty for grown men to swear loudly in public. There also seemed to be a lot more of the old favourites than usual, which was fine for someone whose appreciation of the band is a bit less than anorakical.

What wasn’t fine – that elderly grumpiness is kicking in again – was having my carefully-chosen space invaded midway through the set by the sort of inconsiderates who stand right in front and shout the choruses to each other. I don’t doubt that they laugh at their own jokes and stand up the bar all night as well. Hanging’s too good for some people.

If the beginning was wall to wall classics, so was the finishing stretch – Vatican Broadside, We Built This Village, Everything’s AOR and set-closer Joy Division Oven Gloves, which got the unsponsored mosh pit bopping along merrily.

The encore was the lesser-known Oblong of Dreams, followed by the Psychedelic Furs’ classic Pretty in Pink, which may well be my favourite cover ever. Trumpton Riots ended the night off nicely and after the earlier reservations it had been one of the best HMHB gigs I’ve seen in a long time, helped by them playing about seventeen of my own personal top twenty.

There’s a good chippy on the way into the city as well, in that bit of post-war housing about a mile off the A45, before the retail park. They don’t take cards but there’s a cash machine at the Tesco Express next door.