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Get Out More.........Gig Review

HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT
LEAMINGTON ASSEMBLY ROOMS

01-02-2010

Mark Gunton recently went along to see some of the twentieth century’s greatest social commentators. He didn’t wear oven gloves, or a football shirt.

Half Man Half Biscuit, formed over 25 years ago, don't tour regularly but play various venues around the UK to the adoring masses. Their website has a link for promoters to stage gigs (billed as a fixture list - the band are notorious Tranmere Rovers fans).

The newly refurbished Leamington Spa Assembly, opened in August 2008 after “renovation and design by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen to recreate its Art Deco origins with a contemporary look and practicality of purpose” - as the Assembly website states - hosted the band last Thursday. The 1,000 capacity venue, with its large hall surrounded by stained glass windows and murals, also boasts “a large backstage area complete with 3 changing rooms, artist bar, Tammy Wynette's pink gypsy caravan, shower facilities, Gatling gun and pool tables”.

The large crowd were warmed up by the Merseyside support band, Peter Bentham and the Dinner Ladies. The four piece, including female bassist and drummer both wearing tabards, played a good 30 minute mix of no-nonsense pub-rock and punk in the form of scathing attacks on magazines, Z-list celebrity and the like.

Half Man Half Biscuit, after a stuttering start when bassist Neil Crossly realised he’d plugged his guitar incorrectly, launched into The Light At The End Of The Tunnel followed by Running Order Squabble Fest (featuring the first of many football terrace style chants – “You're going on after Crispy Ambulance”).

The band played a wide ranging 90 minute set that had the boisterous crowd singing and chanting along, including early songs Trumpton Riots and Dulka Prague Away Kit and tracks from the latest album CSI: Ambleside (released in 2008) such as Bad Losers On Yahoo Chess and National Shite Day.

The between-song banter from singer, Nigel Blackwell, ranged from facts about Leamington Spa - the birthplace of boxer Randolph Turpin (“Yes, the highwayman”, he sarcastically said to someone in the audience) to chatting to some travelling Merseysiders about Ellesmere Port and T J Hughes - the shop name sang to the tune of the Osmonds Crazy Horses – “T - J - Hugh - ses!”.

During some of the set, Nigel played a guitar that was shaped like a caravan (I kid you not). He had suggested that Neil, the bassist, should have one in the shape of a saloon car, so they could form a convoy.

As the night wore on, the audience became more animated, some forming a moshpit near the stage. Quite funny, when you realise that the average age was about 40, which made it much more entertaining.

The set ended with another chant-along, I Hate Nerys Hughes, to a crowd old enough to know who Nerys Hughes is.

Returning for an encore, the band played Evening Of Swing, a note-perfect Apache (Yes, the Shadows one) and ended with Joy Division Oven Gloves. As always, Half Man Half Biscuit never failed to deliver a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Read the review from The Robin gig here

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