Media Watch #1. Is The Establishment starting to clutch at the band? Thanks to Tony and Karen for drawing this to my attention. HMHB featured in a question on Only Connect. This is how it was told to me. "What connects (a) You, (b) A Beatle, (c) A Dukla Prague Away Kit and (d) My Two Front Teeth?" The answer (of course) was "Things that people have wanted for Christmas, in a song." Apparently the contestant got the answer after receiving the Dukla Prague clue. Mainstream or what? I'm afraid that programme tends to pass me by.
Media Watch #2. This one is thanks to Gomez. He texted me to say that he had been listening to a commentary on a Liverpool match in the Europa League. Danny Murphy made the astute observation: "You can't put your foot up in Europe." We knew that already, Danny, but thanks for the reminder.
Media Watch #3. Manchester Evening News on the day of the gig. They went big on The Ting Tings and the new Paddington film, but there wasn't a whisper about the HMHB gig. Maybe not so mainstream after all.
It was a steady journey through to Manchester, punctuated only by a fellow passenger at Fitzwilliam station telling us about her £28 rucksack which was ideal for going fishing because it had loads of pockets which she proceeded to demonstrate. There's a HMHB song in there somewhere. Lunch was at the Street Food Chef Mexican café in Sheffield. Top breakfast burritos available at all times of the day. I'll be back soon. There was also a spot of confusion, nay turmoil, over the train whose carriages were in the following order - B, A, D, C. Ideal for confusing passengers (probably a disgruntled employee involved somewhere in there, no doubt). It was the same on the way back. But this time we had sussed their system.
Immediately on arrival at The Ritz, I spotted the new Urge For Offal t-shirt on sale at Geoff's stall. It's the album cover on a black t-shirt. Geoff explained a new pricing structure. I think it was something to do with the colour print. Still a bargain though, and an essential addition to the winter collection. I also spotted that UFO are playing at this venue in April. Clearly Stale Craig has re-acquainted himself with his brain. We met up with Daz who was looking forward to a night time bus ride back to London after the gig (he got home at 7.30), and also there was John the King Of Hi Vis winning the Best T-Shirt award with his Midge Ure Milk Thief number. He was run close by the guy in the Torquay shirt with Dennis Bell in letters on the back. Also there was Joel who was returning to The Ritz the following evening, to catch Chas And Dave. I await a report. And I can now say that I have shaken hands with one of the members of Alberto Y Los Trios Paranoias. He was down at the front with John. Mental note to dig out my copy of Heads Down No Nonsense Mindless Boogie.
The support act was Broken Men. Perhaps the singer might want to think again about wearing the Nigel Farage coat, but I'm not really one who should be handing out fashion tips. The arrival of their brass section meant that there were eleven of them on stage for most of their show. I can't see them doing many house gigs, and it is going to be a squeeze if any groupies end up getting a lift home in their van. It is always tempting to compare acts like this with other stuff that you know. On this occasion I struggled to do that, which is no bad thing. I liked the "busy" nature of their sound. I had to ask Nigel about the walk-on music. It was called The Magic Trumpet and was used as the theme to Granada TV's Sunday afternoon football highlights programme. Presented by Gerald Sinstadt. Those were the days, when these things were regionalised. As Nigel pointed out, Gerry Harrison did Anglia's coverage (we had Keith Macklin on our side of the hills) and Hugh Johns covered for ATV. Nigel mentioned Hugh's description of a Jeff Astle shot being "seriously adjacent" when going just wide of the goal. Second half in black and white. Those were the days.
There was more regional TV over-my-head stuff when Nigel spotted Annabel Tiffin in the crowd. We had a couple of very brief twangs of the opening bit of Shine On You Crazy Diamond. The old Tiger Feet joke was given another outing. ("Who sang it? Mud or Sweet...? That's right, that's right, that's right, that's right?") Nigel also talked about the guy who presents Homes Under The Hammer, about how he always looks like he has a piece of metal in one hand and a magnet in the other. Apparently you can sing that line to the theme tune. I'll try it next time I am watching. Neil had a couple of Cresta badges on his bass strap. "It's frothy, man!" One of the more unusual requests from the crowd was for Do They Know It's Christmas. Unlikely, but you can never be sure. Victoria (the fifth Biscuit) joined the band on stage for Adam Boyle and After The Goldrush. The experts around me suggested she was playing the Tenor Horn. There was a bit of instrument swapping from Ken and Neil for Bane Of Constance, with Neil also playing guitar on Adam Boyle.
At the end of Lock Up Your Mountain Bikes, the line was "That's when I was saying that Black Friday would surely end in tears." Black Friday being the day of this gig, when shoppers form gigantic scrums as they battle for 40" tellies. On the subject, Nigel gave us a glimpse of his Christmas shopping list: "Replicas by Tubeway Army and Stations Of The Crass for my Mum, and a fridge for my grand-daughter so that I can see her face light up when she opens it." There were a couple of lines from Song To The Siren ahead of Vatican Broadside. We were reminded that Ken was the first man in Wallasey to use Skype. There was more life than usual in the mosh pit, resulting from a far larger crowd than usual. It wasn't great for note-taking but I got by. A few people were surprised that It's Cliched To Be Cynical At Christmas wasn't played tonight, but maybe that would have been a cliché in itself. And I didn't hear this myself, but Karen assured me that there was a RIP message for Philip Hughes.
These were the songs:When The Evening Sun Goes Down
There were five in the encore...After The Goldrush
This was the middle of three shows on three nights for me. Schwervon in Sheffield the night before, and The Lovely Eggs in Wakefield on the night after. I would like to award HMHB with Gig Of The Year, but having seen The Fall in York in August, the prize has to go there on this occasion (unless something surprising happens in December). Ah well, there's always next year. Starting in Edinburgh at the end of January.