The Plug, Matilda Street, Sheffield

“We were going to have ourselves a beautiful evening. Everything was in order…” as me and a couple of fellow HMHB fans headed to Plug for our second gig on the other side of the Pennines.

The venue itself is a fine intimate venue which lacks the cavernous nature of The Academy (Manchester) and the pokiness of The Witchwood (Ashton-under-Lyne). Sound levels were clear as being able to hear Messrs Blackwell, Crossley and Co lacked distortion and kept to a good volume. Layout is sound with the bar and shop areas clearly defined. Toilets are located near the stage which enables you to catch the rest of the gig whilst having a piddle.

Birkenhead’s finest played one of their tightest gigs opening with ‘Them’s The Vagaries’. As well as their back catalogue, there were four unreleased gems including ‘(You Left Your Lyrics in the) Practice Room’. Possible new album on the horizon?

Lasting two hours, their slot was excellent value for money with a mammoth 31 song setlist. Supporting HMHB were Probe Plus labelmates Sonnenberg, an Anglo-German band with a sensitive folk rock sound. Sonnenberg is a quartet with three German musicians who studied at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. The fourth British member is Dave Thom, late of Calvin Party and Gone to Earth.

There was a fair balance between the older mid-1980s material and more contemporary works. First of the older stuff was ‘F^%$*in’ ‘Ell It’s Fred Titmuss’. Following ‘Surging Out of Convalescence’, ‘Venus in Flares’ was a nice surprise. The last song before the encore set was ‘99% Of All Gargoyles Look Like Bob Todd’.

The encore didn’t disappoint either. We and the rest of the 600 strong audience were surprised to find The Dead Kennedys’ ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ as the obligatory ‘Encore Random Cover Version’ – a feature of most HMHB gigs. The encore set boasted six songs opening with an new one based on a Ground Force co-presenter (‘Tommy Walsh’s Eco House’) and finishing the ever-dependable ‘Everything’s AOR’.

On a personal level, this was my sixth HMHB gig in 12 years. No single gig I’ve been to has ever been samey, and Wirral’s finest proved just that last night with four new songs.

Set list:

  • Them’s The Vagaries (Cammell Laird Social Club);
  • Asparagus Next Left (Achtung Bono);
  • Petty Sessions (CSI: Ambleside);
  • (You Left Your Lyrics in the) Practice Room (new song);
  • Mate of the Bloke (Achtung Bono);
  • The Light at the End of the Tunnel (is the Light of an Oncoming Train) (Cammell Laird Social Club);
  • Tending the Wrong Grave for 23 Years (CSI: Ambleside);
  • Up Against Kids (new song);
  • Totnes Bickering Fair (CSI: Ambleside);
  • F*****’ ‘Ell It’s Fred Titmuss (Back in the DHSS);
  • Surging Out Of Convalescence (Achtung Bono);
  • Venus in Flares (Back in the DHSS);
  • The Trumpton Riots (The Trumpton Riots EP);
  • RSVP (new song);
  • San Antonio Foam Party (Cammell Laird Social Club);
  • We Built This Village on a Trad. Arr. Tune (Achtung Bono);
  • Biofreeze (adaptation of ‘Heroin’ by Lou Reed);
  • National S**** Day (CSI: Ambleside);
  • Evening of Swing (Has Been Cancelled) (CSI: Ambleside);
  • Turned Up, Clocked On, Laid Off (This Leaden Pall);
  • Joy Division Oven Gloves (Achtung Bono);
  • Uffington Wassail (Trouble Over Bridgwater);
  • Running Order Squabblefest (This Leaden Pall);
  • All I Want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit (The Trumpton Riots EP);
  • 99% of All Gargoyles Look Like Bob Todd (Back in the DHSS).

Encore Set List:

  • Tommy Walsh’s Eco House (new);
  • For What Is Chatteris (Achtung Bono);
  • Holiday in Cambodia (obligatory encore cover version);
  • Vatican Broadside (Editor’s Recommendation EP);
  • Time Flies By (When You’re the Driver of a Train) (Back in the DHSS);
  • Everything’s AOR (Macintyre Treadmore and Davitt).

Before you leave this world, go to at least one Half Man Half Biscuit gig in your life. Anywhere. You wouldn’t regret it.

S.V., 18 February 2011.

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