London is a large city, based in south east England. As documented previously, I am not always a fan of city gigs. They tend to be impersonal goings-on, the venues are extremely samey, and the prices always veer in an upwards direction. Sure enough, tonight I found that a bottle of water costs the same as a pint of bitter back home. But the policy regarding coats at the front of the gig was different. At Bristol, categorically and unequivocally you were not allowed to drape your jacket over the crush barrier. However tonight, a more liberal attitude ruled, and yes, you were allowed to do this. Hurrah for old fashioned values.
At the start of the evening, Tony and I swapped CDs in the same way that captains swap pendants on European football nights. He now has the Mi Mye album, whereas I will be driving to work next work with the new Elbow CD playing in the car. I am promised some "Dad rock". After that ceremony, we used our underground all-day passes to get from Euston to Shepherds Bush. Change at Tottenham Court Road. There is a probably a quicker route, but that seemed to be the most obvious one to us. Plenty of tut-tutting. We both decided that neither of us could do this trudge every day. Smiling seems to be banned as you travel around. Perhaps everyone needs Boris to crack one of his jokes. In Latin. That would be hilarious.
We bumped into Gomez and Howie by the green near the Empire. They were in search of real ale. I was just happy enough for them to point out that we were close to where the band was playing. We could have been on the wrong side of the city for all I knew. In we went. This place sure ain't Roadwater Village Hall. They do things big in London. In addition to a sizeable floor area, there is also three levels of seating. From what I could tell, most of it was filled. The guy next to Tony was telling us that he saw Sparks there not long back. That would have been a tidy night out. Once again, JD Meatyard were the support act. And once again, they put in another personal best. JD had a little quibble about there being no beer in the dressing room (that's city gigs for you, John). But that was soon put right by one of his mates handing over a Guinness. Pop stars, bless 'em. From what John said during the show, they actually have two CDs out. I thought there was just Northern Songs. I'll have to do some internet shopping. Standing On The Shoulders and Lies, Lies And Government were mighty tonight. John's machine-gun acoustic guitar was a nice touch. It would have been rude not to join in with the shouts for more when they finished. No joy tonight, but there is always another time.
When HMHB came on, I immediately clocked Neil's "Hats Off To (Steve) Hanley" t-shirt. I didn't quite get the exact reference point, but any mention of The Fall's erstwhile bass player is fine by me. At one point somebody in the crowd must have asked about the t-shirt, and Nigel nodded towards Neil and said "he can play Tempo House." I wish! This was the same Neil who had driven on the motorway toll road at 11.30pm the previous night. "A bit ostentatious," commented Nigel. San Antonio Foam Party is "a song we wrote when we went on holiday together." Tonight there was a seamless segway from that song into the biro/slipper bit from The Best Things In Life, and from that it was straight into the last part of Yipps. There was a lot of movement from Nigel. At one point he seemed to be doing a cross between the Shadows walk and a backwards Chuck Berry duck walk. It must take hours of practice. Left Lyrics is all about when Christ appeared in a Dorothy Perkins shop. Joy In Leeuwarden is "an imported number". Nigel told us the tale about going to the British Museum with the rest of the band in the afternoon. But they were stuck in a queue behind a couple of coachloads of people. So instead they opted to go to Greggs and sit outside "like a set of pathetic Northerners in town again." As Nigel suggested, perhaps the best time to go to the Museum is at 9.30 in the morning in winter. Apparently they ended up watching Celebrity Squares. The final contestant needed to name nine vegetables but could only get to six. Never mind, eh. I noticed a beer shower going on in the moshpit. Very 1977. Before Totnes Bickering Fair, Nigel said "This is about going to the zoo and having a bet that someone will spoil your day by putting a second "g" in Orang Utan." There was a slight pause in proceedings while one of the moshers had to tie his shoelace. Very considerate. There was a reference to "Where Milton's blindness meets Shilton's blandness." Nigel said he was fancying Japan at 200/1 for the World Cup. And he was also having a look at a horse in the 2.30 at Newbury. "Dusty Carpet. It's never been beaten." That one even got a ker-tish from Carl on the drums. As always, there were snippets from possible new songs. One of these dealt with the local golf club trying to drum up trade when the schools go back, by selling bacon rolls. Also there was a reprise for the line about Mr Universe always coming from Earth. There was a debut for a full song. According to Tony, Stuck Up A Hornbeam sounded a bit like Ca Plane Pour Moi. All the better for it. Nigel gave away a couple of the all-day underground tickets, which the band no longer needed. Do you actually use stuff like that, or frame them? During A Country Practice he had to stop and correct himself, after repeating the line about the retail tobacconist. The cover version was a Gorkys Zygotic Mynci song. Am I imagining it, or have they done that one previously? Need to check my records. Here is the list.When The Evening Sun Goes Down
And three songs in the encore...Patio Song
And from there we were back onto the happy underground. A big Ta to the Plaka café for keeping me fed for a day. Less than three weeks until we all reconvene in Leamington Spa.