At last, the highlight of the year of Hull: City Of Culture. All sorts had been going on during the previous months, street theatre, that kind of thing, but at last they saw sense and booked a decent band. A big Thanks to Eventim for charging Karen the usual admin fee for booking tickets, and then sending out tickets with a completely incorrect date on them. It didn't strike us as particularly good admin, but maybe we have impossibly high standards.
Considering that I live relatively close to Hull, I disappoint myself when recording that this was only my third ever gig in the city. Both my previous visits were to see the excellent local act Fonda 500, both times at The Adelphi. I was on a pub crawl in the locality on the day that Hull City played in the FA Cup final. I was reminded of The Manchester and Ye Olde Black Boy as we wandered through the old part of the city. And the lowest scoring Rugby League game I've ever seen was in the city (a 2-2 draw between Hull KR and Featherstone). This was no good to the taxi driver who drove us to the gig. He was a committed Hull FC supporter. We talked about their great side from the early eighties (Norton, Leuluai, Crooks, Kemble) and the time when Featherstone upset the odds against them in the 1983 Challenge Cup final in the pre-Biscuit era. I had to get that one in.
Beyond all those events my knowledge of Hull remained sparse. Hence the need for Karen's map when we took an afternoon stroll in order to find the venue. We meandered through the shopping area, noting that Superdrug Live is not a patch on Primark FM. While we were out, I bought a copy of the Hull Daily Mail, to assess the level of publicity for the show. Not a word as it turned out. Maybe they had already featured them some other time.
In the runup to this show Karen had wondered out loud if the band might play Rod Hull Is Alive -Why? The kind of clever link that the band would utilise. Hull? Get it? We also pondered the possibilities for cover versions. Everything But The Girl? Housemartins? Maybe something from the Spiders From Mars back catalogue? Or The Gargoyles would have been nice. There was a request for Happy Hour at the start of the encore. All were wrong as it turned out. Maybe there was a European Cities Of Culture link to The Undertones or am I reading too much into that?
The Challenge TV channel have been showing some old Bullseye repeats for some time now. It's useful to see how the players looked thirty years ago. And there's the heartbreak when somebody misses out on winning the speedboat because of a stray last dart. That's the gamble. One of the sections of the programme included a celebrity throwing darts, with their score being converted into pounds to be donated to a charity. Karen and I were both, frankly, shocked to see the appearance of Lionel Blair in this spot. Tap dancing on the oche! It wasn't very Leighton Rees. What did God give us, Neil?
We were at the venue about half an hour before the doors were due to open. Even so, we had been beaten to the punch by Andrew, Matt, Graham and Sam, who was making his debut at a HMHB gig. He had even brought his family with him. I have often wondered how my family members would have taken to HMHB. My Mum and Dad once took me to see Morecambe And Wise perform live. That's as near as I ever got to going to a gig with them. I met another HMHB debutante later on, when Nigel and Jo introduced their daughter Charlotte. Sorry I didn't hang around to find out what you thought about it all. Jordan and Emily were also in the queue experiencing the brisk sea air.
When we got inside, I had a chat with Geoff and Zinny who were manning the shop. I got a good catch-up with all things Biscuit and Sonnenberg, and then into the hall. I had heard a lot of mention of The Welly down the years. In much the same way as with The Adelphi, I had expected a bigger space. But that's not a problem. A lot of the atmosphere gets lost in bigger venues. Tonight everything was just fine.
We exchanged pleasantries with John, Elizabeth and Postman Tony, in particular comparing notes about the current state of health of Mr Mark E Smith. Later on, I got a tap on the shoulder from Pete. I also caught up with Katharine and Karl, who would have appreciated Nigel's references to Historic Pontefract. Mike waved Hello, and Howie, Neil and Daz battled their way to the front. Apologies from the heart to Mariana for causing her to spill some beer as I clumsily made my way past her and Ian.
Support was from Mike Badger, who was apparently an original member of The La's. We might have expected There She Goes, but this was a long way from that. The first thing I wrote down about him was "Rockabilly", a word which actually appeared in his second song. I'm guessing at some of his titles... Growing Old Disgracefully, Ten Commandments Of Rock, and there was one that seemed to be about being a protest singer. I wonder if he knows John Donaldson from JD Meatyard? I also spotted a reference to the obligatory bottle of whisk(e)y. And I'm afraid I was too busy making notes to join in with the hand-clapping when that happened at one point. Great stuff from Mike, but I'd like to see how it works with a band behind him. For those who note these things, he was playing a Bonneville TT Special.
HMHB walked onto the stage in relative silence. "Another one of our dynamic entrances," said Nigel. "The weekend starts here."
"We were told to stop off at Historic Pontefract," said Nigel. "It's all liquorice and a racecourse." I suggested to him that there's a castle there as well, but he wasn't having it. "You can get too much history. We made do with a can of Fanta at Hartshead Moor services." Later Nigel came back to the stop-off at Hartshead. He had seen a lorry driver who was an Otto Klemperer lookalike. Nigel has always claimed to know every Coronation Street actor from the 1970s and 1980s, along with the name of their character. When challenged, Nigel ended up following the lookalike back to his cab shouting "Margot Bryant! Margot Bryant!".
There was a slight variation to the lyrics in Petty Sessions. The hymn number was 242. Nigel got mixed up with the running order. "This one's Bad Review," he announced before realising that Ode To Joyce was actually due up next. "I was still thinking about Pontefract. High on liquorice."
Another tale came later. "In 1986 we went to Barton On Humber. We visited Barton Claypits." (Helpfully there was a shout from the crowd, advising that this is now a tea shop.) "My brother bought a clay mug from there. Whenever I go round to his house for a cuppa, we always look at this mug with much melancholy." Nigel said it was OK being a tea room now, as long as you could still have a mug at the end.
At one point the stage looked like what you might expect for the Sisters Of Mercy. "You look very atmospheric with the dry ice," said Nigel to Neil. "Although actually it's not dry ice. It's stage smoke." Nigel suggested that maybe there was enough smoke on stage for the time being, and asked the crew to leave it for about twenty minutes. "But maybe the dressing room is on fire. I hope not. My jacket's in there."
It often helps if you know your vintage TV adverts. Nigel had a snort on a Vicks inhaler. There was a shout of "Eight hours!" referring to the advertised protection offered by this product. Nigel said he had won a bet because he knew someone was going to shout that out. Normally someone shouts "First class ticket to Nottingham!" But of course that's from an ad for Tunes.
God Gave Us Life got off to a slightly cocked-up start before getting going properly. I might have missed someone out here, but I reckon God also gave us Matthew Horne, Len Goodman, Paddy McGuiness, Jack Whitehall, Jack Whitehall's dad, Halloween gobshites, Fireworks gobshites, Christmas gobshites, New Year gobshites, A load of gobshites, Matt Dawson, Phil "Tuffers" Tufnell and Lionel Blair. There was a similar false start to The Light At The End Of The Tunnel. Martin was able to help Nigel out with the opening line.
Nigel confirmed that he had not been able to see the Turner Prize exhibition at the Ferens Gallery, and wondered if that and Ferensway was named after someone from Hull. I didn't catch it all from him, but in the course of the conversation he started singing the theme to Get It Together. Another one from way back when, featuring Basil Brush's erstwhile sidekick Roy North.
Someone asked if they could take their dog on a bat walk. "No!" was Nigel's answer. (Yet again, the new song dealing with bat walks, Renfield's Afoot, was missing tonight.) "We're all in agreement about this, so let's see what happens," he said ahead of Tommy Walsh's Eco House.
Neil started playing a bit of Joy Division. "Don't encourage him," Nigel said. There was a shout for Isolation. Nigel said to Neil "That's put you on the spot". Neil's response was to play the tune in question. There was also an impromptu intro involving Nigel and Carl. Sorry. I didn't recognise that. Nigel pointed supposedly in the direction of the shop when he sang the Milletts line in National Shite Day. Fans of Philip Larkin will have noted his line "This be the verse" ahead of Look Dad No Tunes. This prompted a shout of "They tuck you up, your Mum and Dad", to which Nigel replied "They buck you up, your Mum and Dad - except they didn't come to school sports day".
Ron Seal returned to the stage. Nigel examined him close up. According to Tony, Nigel noticed that Ron looked a bit like Kenneth More's mate in A Night To Remember.
As with the Glasgow show a month earlier, Karl was playing lead guitar. All seemed well on stage with he and Nigel getting involved in a nice Parfitt/Rossi moment. Ken now hasn't played since the Sheffield show in August. We're all hoping he is going OK.
Tonight's songs were:Fuckin' 'Ell It's Fred Titmus
And in the encore they played:Time Flies By When You're A Driver Of A Train
For auditing purposes, I obtained Karl's set list. Only a couple of alterations. Time Flies By had originally been scheduled for the main block of the show. And We Built This Village was dropped altogether.
Massive, massive thanks to Graham for the lift back afterwards. Hope you got back home OK, and best wishes for the forthcoming addition to the family.
The day after this show we headed to Leicester to see Brix And The Extricated. The ticket inspector at the station spotted Karen's Stony Ground tshirt. He said he was from Derby and said he was disappointed that they had never played there. I told him that was not the case. I was at The First Floor Club in February 2006. He obviously missed that one.
We were not too far away from festivities at the end of December. I spotted An Evening Of Christmas Swing advertised at the Corn Exchange in Leeds. We would have booked, but it is certain to be cancelled.
So that looks like it for HMHB for 2017. I never quite know how to compare one show against any other. But this one certainly seemed to tick a lot of boxes. More of the same please in 2018.