Time Flies By - when you're at a Half Man Half Biscuit Gig.
Half Man Half Biscuit – The Assembly, Leamington Spa. 17 March 2023 Review by David Court.
It’s a bold claim, but it’s my personal belief that along with Jim Bob (of Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine Fame, still going strong today as a solo artist) singer and songwriter Nigel Blackwell is one of the greatest lyricists operating today. With a keen ear for a pun and an extraordinary knack for a majestic turn of phrase, his band – Half Man Half Biscuit - are often unfairly mislabelled as a novelty act, but they’re so much more than that. Half Man Half Biscuit were formed in 1984 and were heavily championed by John Peel back in the day (although it’s probably for the best that we cough (move past that).
From an era when Morrissey and his Smiths were singing poetically about how grim it was up north, Nigel was waxing lyrical about both middle England and middle-class complacency. Actor Robert Bathurst wrote an article for the Oldie singing the praises of the Birkenhead four-piece that does the band far greater justice than I ever could, and it’s interesting to note the evolution of the band. Once they sang angrily of life under Thatcher, and now they sing about more middle-aged pursuits - a disdain for real ale bores and organised bat walks, songs of bad backs, middling football trophies and drug bores. Friday the 17th of March saw the lads performing at the Assembly in Leamington Spa, ably supported by The Humdrum Express, Kidderminster band with a similar penchant for wry lyrics and a similarly keen interest in football.
Speaking of which, a smattering of Dukla Prague away kits (if you know you know) amongst audience members let you know you were in the right place – they’ve gathered an incredibly loyal fan base over the years. Following a prompt 9pm start, a nearly two-hour set followed, a whistlestop tour through their 15-album career including such delights as “We Built This Village on a Trad. Arr. Tune”, “The Trumpton Riots”, “Everything’s AOR” and “King of Hi-Vis”. A few of the crowd – myself included – thought that their raucous ode to shoddy merchandising “Joy Division Oven Gloves” would be the end of the gig, but an encore saw them return, indulging the eager audience in a surprising cover of Status Quo’s “Caroline”.
Overall, a triumphant night. Let’s raise a glass to those four lads who shook the Wirral. Mine’s a pint of Badger’s Entirely Blameless.