This was the first time I've been to Wolverhampton since leaving university there in 1995, and the place had changed very little, Molineux's construction has been completed and a few shops had disappeared (notably Mike Lloyd Music) but otherwise it was the same old drab, depressing place it was back in the 1990's.
After wandering the shops for a few hours, I checked in to the Novotel and relaxed for a few hours pre gig - watched "Columbo" and was pleased to discover that I could plug my ipod into the tv and so listened to music for a bit (lots of HMHB and The Hold Steady) and had a short nap.
HMHB were due on stage at 9pm so I set off to the Wolverhampton bus station at 7pm and asked which bus was the best one to get to the venue as there were several buses going to Bilston. "Yow need the foive four foive or the foive two seex, Chap" came the reply from the Bus company employee in the local dialect
I wonder if the band deliberately decided to play in places with laughable accents in 2007 - Somerset, South Wales, Lancashire and the Black Country - can I suggest Norwich and Bristol next year lads?
After circumnavigating the small town of Bilston twice I spotted some very obvious HMHB fans (mid 30's, balding with beer bellies) and asked them for directions.
The Robin is a cracking venue.. The entrance bar is called "Woody's" after local legend/Wizzard member, Roy Wood and there were loads of great photos of him and old gig posters on the walls. The concert part is a separate room holding approx 700 people. Before the band came on there was a large projector screen at stage front advertising forthcoming gigs which were virtually all tackily named tribute acts, the two which made me laugh were Nearly Dan and Crowded Scouse - are these genuine bands or had Nigel surreptiously added them on?
HMHB were in great form, good to see Ken back in the line up, and there was a distinct improvement from the Cardiff and Frome gigs as a result. Nigel was clad in Berghaus and as usual his banter filled out the gaps where Ken retuned- discussing amongst other things, the worst A roads, trips up Snowden on a saturday, the FA Cup draw and the cost of plumbers - the Manics end part of "Lock up your mountain bikes" was changed to "I'd rather be a plumber than a spark". Nigel pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket he assumed was his setlist about half way through only to discover it was his Dad's christmas list which consisted of a list of paperbook books which the audience and Nigel critically dissected.
Nigel managed to mess up a few lyrics here and there, most apparent in Paintball where the audience had to remind him of which bit he had missed - although considering how wordy many of the songs are, he does a bloody good job remembering so many of them.
"Bad Losers at Yahoo Chess" was fantastic live, and is quickily established itself as one of my favourites, and I can't wait for the new album, "early next year" according to Geoff.
I chose "Wrong Grave.." as my cue to empty my aching bladder and they did a very extended version which strayed into something else (possibly Hip Priest by the Fall as they did in Blackpool)
Half expected them to do "It's cliched to be cynical at Christmas" but was delighted to be treated to another great set list, but then it always is - it's impossible to go wrong with their back catalogue. My only disappointment was the lack of Caravan guitar, which always seems to happen when I have a camera with me.