It was good to see that in the manner of the dedicated fan, Nigel was in preparation for "Le Tour 2011". There was a flash and then a brief cameo appearance for the "Dirk Hofman Motorhomes" sign. It was flourished, placed in front of the drums and summarily removed by the stage clearers almost as the band exited; stage left.
My date for the evening and I found this highly amusing, well; Mrs. C. did, once I had explained the significance of it after we fought our way out of the venue, through the detritus that was an unhygienic mound of empty plastic glasses. At those prices, it was probably a good night for The Empire. An extremely tickling conclusion to the evening was the impromptu entertainment provided by the smoking punters outside a bar on The Green. The pavements were damp and slippery; the subject of their folly an extremely 'refreshed' gentleman of the streets. They were chucking 10p and 20p pieces on the ground and he was trying to harvest them from the flagstones, in the style of the latest ITV7 light entertainment show, with a hypothetical title along the lines of "Police Drunk Driver Video Fun".
As ever, I digress and like an almost pukka critic, obscurely start at the end of the events for dramatic effect. However, back to a more customary sequence of events, which should start with some comment(s) on the venue and the set-list. It's London; innit? So, you have good transport if you want it, hopeless parking and the beer is awful and massively over-priced. I think it has been noted elsewhere, but the sound was idiosyncratic. We had found a position that left me in no doubt that knowing the HMHB back catalogue verbatim was advantageous. It was awful. But there were a couple of videos posted that sounded OK. Like many locals, I have seen umpteen bands at The Empire and at floor level, have yet to leave in receipt of a splendid aural experience. Anyway, the set-list: -
The Light At The End of the Tunnel (Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train)
When The Evening Sun Goes Down
Bob Wilson - Anchorman
Fuckin' 'Ell, It's Fred Titmus
Surging Out Of Convalescence
All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
Left Lyrics In The Practice Room
For What Is Chatteris...
Turned up Clocked On Laid Off
*refrain* Foot Up In Europe
Look Dad No Tunes
National Shite Day
Twenty Four Hour Garage People
A Lilac Harry Quinn
Evening Of Swing (Has Been Cancelled)
99% Of Gargoyles Look Like Bob Todd
Running Order Squabble Fest
The Bastard Son Of Dean Friedman
Joy Division Oven Gloves
A Country Practice
We Built This Village On A Trad. Arr. Tune
Tommy Walsh's Eco House
Holiday In Cambodia
Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes
The highlight of the evening for me, and probably for many others, was the absorbing rendition of A Country Practice. It has been explored at length amongst other forums and somebody has posted a cracking version on FaceTube, but I will dwell for a moment.
Better than everything else in the song/narrative, was the soliloquy extolling the virtues of William Roache, not seeking to be anything other than a soap legend (unlike Julie Goodyear, et al). It is not the first time that Nigel has demonstrated his respect for Bill and rightly so, based on my not recent, but certainly soap-infested youth. At a chance meeting outside a pub in North Wales, Bill has had a couple of sherbets and he grabs Nigel by the collar in a friendly manner and says; "Nine words. Nine words to tell me we're f&cked as a planet." "Go on then, Bill; nine words." "After the news, the comedy continues with 'My Family'."
I have to confess that I broke into a LOL, a ROFL if you will and an LMAO, as the spotty youths may say. Every time I see an advert for the programme I regret that the BBC did not spend the equivalent budget on the inter-European Volleyball League or something that may be significantly more worthwhile. Perhaps it is just me, or the passage of time, but it really has been a downhill slope for Robert Lindsay since "Citizen Smith" and it is now a black run.
As ever, a brilliant but on this occasion also, near-haunting and somewhat sinister (which the photos were, too; great job Mr. Sinister) version of 24-Hour Garage People. The comment lobbed in the direction of the trainee Leadbelly; "1,249 friends on Facebook; you have a barbeque mate and see how many turn up" was pure genius and there was a heated discussion in the car on the way home about who would have access to this as their FB status. I pulled rank and insisted, as Mrs. C. had refused to drive home because quite legitimately, she despises driving in London and the one thing that she hates more than that particular thing is me in the passenger seat meting out instructions in a state of mild alcoholic befuddlement.
In the queue, Graham the Mormon wants some pre-sliced, pre-buttered malt loaf and a chat about paradise. Putting the two things together is amusing enough in its' own right, without adding context. We chuckled and felt a slight shiver down our spines after Nigel noted that he had begun to feel a little sorry for the poor boy, who was spilling his heart out and the outpouring ended its' descent in Jack Nicholson-esque whispered tones, from inhabitant of the garage emporium, with; "the Horror, the Horror." Nigel's response was instantaneous and penetrating; "The Sandwiches, the Sandwiches."
Despite the awful sound, the cavernous nature of the venue and the fact that the audience are generally more boisterous in the Smoke (I think it is that the Southerner's are just Biscuit-starved and get over-excited when the Boys venture down the M6/M1), Nigel was quite talkative and there were lots of interesting snippets. He opened by declaring that the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail was a massive letdown. I hope that they did not come to London via this venue, lest the ecological effects of such a detour. A song was introduced as being about when a stab victim agrees to meet for coffee and the coffee's sh1t. That would be seriously disappointing.
Going back, slightly, I had forgotten until now about the support band. I didn't even catch their name and due to a diary malfunction, we only arrived in time to see that last three songs. However, I thought that the music was 'interesting' if not mildly promising; more entertaining was the fact that the lead singer bore a passing resemblance to a slightly more impressively coiffured Peter Serafinowicz. Most amusing were his two backing singers, who until more closely inspected, could easily have been French & Saunders doing one of their amusing masquerades.
Nigel did spend some time regretting that he had left the backdrop in the van. He did consider going to get it and the stage did look cavernous, which they are perhaps not used to! He gave a shout to Clive Swift and Bradley Dredge, who appeared to be on the balcony; "Some night out that". Nigel had found out immediately before coming on stage that Phil Neville is the victim of the latest super-injunction. The girl doesn't want to be named. He longingly noted (in a wilting refrain) that at 21 he looked like Judd Trump, now he just looks like Jaap Stam. Mrs. C. caught the look of wonderment on my face (not quite the front of an Anglia, mind) when she joined me in a hearty chuckle and anticipating the question, said that she thinks he used to play for Man U. Fair play to her, we would have lost a round and possibly money on "MR & MRS!" with that one. I won't tell her.
Ken once again got a bit of stick during his inevitable 'twixt-song tune-ups. "The only person in Britain to be banned from the Eden Project" and equally mirthfully; "His Great Uncle was the first man in Whitehaven to have a Pot Noodle". Ken got his own back with a master-class in comedic interludes. A mandatory galoot threw a half-full (or half-empty if that is your wont) plastic pint glass of beer (probably lager) onto the stage, which somersaulted, spraying Ken and almost miraculously finishing in an upright position with about an inch of grog left in the bottom. At the conclusion of the song, Ken picked it up, looked at it knowingly and took a slosh. Actually, I think (and hope) that he pretended to, but it was a nice touch.
At a point close to the median, someone threw a top to Nigel. Nigel lifted it up, somewhat gingerly, to see if there were "any ridiculous slogans" on it. In response to a shout from the congregation, he did confirm that it was a fleece; "Grown man wearing a fleece in June" was uttered with a little disdain. It has unseasonably cold in the South-East, but his point is fair. I think he said it was not a Karrimor, again slightly condescendingly, but he returned it to the bosom of the crowd.
The only other episode of note was the preview of a new song, "Excavating Rita". This was hugely disheartening experience, not the song you understand, but the fact that (in our section of the audience) you could barely make out a word of what was being sung. I will reserve judgment. I did catch a couple of lines from the chorus; "I'm your Betterware Man, I'm your number one fan." Nigel kindly explained beforehand that it was a new song about a door-to-door salesman who still sells brushes and pegs and that. He falls in love with one of his clients and she dies. Obviously, she dies. He ends up in a home, but it doesn't end there for him. I think the title is probably self-explanatory at this juncture. Amusingly, Nigel is interrupted in the middle of his explanation and does sharply, almost School-Mistressly, responds with; "I'm trying to tell a f&cking story, here!"
In all, despite the sound quality, another solid show and I'm sure that the London punters will have gone home relatively satisfied and replete for another couple of seasons. In terms of value for money, the test was well and truly passed. On before 9:00 p.m. and not off until 11:00 p.m., a cracking version (probably album version) of Holiday in Cambodia and a very representative set-list. You can't ask much more from the boys, especially dragging them all so far away from home. Gawd Bless Ya.