I spent a fun weekend seeing the St. Helens and Hebden Bridge gigs with my friend, chauffeur and co-conspirator Mags, and they were both breathtaking. How dare Nick get better every time we see him?!?
First off, St. Helens. LOVED the venue - can we have one of these for Edinburgh pleeeeze? There is a definite shortage of good mid-sized venues up here (and mouthy fans as well - we can't do ALL the work on our own ;). I'm sure my fave promoter would give her right arm for a space like this - it may have been seated, but the acoustics were great from where I was sitting and you could see from just about anywhere.
The opening act was Tom Hingley (ex-Inspiral Carpets). I quite enjoyed him. We saw him do a greatest hits-y set at T in the Park last year (on in the acoustic tent right before Glenn Tilbrook) and thought this was much better because he did more of his own new material rather than Inspirals stuff. That said, we would have liked a few more Inspirals tunes this time.
Then on to the main man. As I started to mention earlier, I was bowled over by Nick's very... well, *enthusiastic* female admirers. Ahem!!!! Admittedly I am rather fond of him ["no shit, Sherlock!" - the whole universe] but even I couldn't have pictured a whole row of mad Scouse women with the raging horn over "our Nick", offering to have his babies. He *was* wearing his near-legendary velvet trousers, but even I was blushing! And I dunno what kind of reputation I have with the other half, but when I mentioned the full-on come-ons from the crowd, he asked what kind of trouble Mags and I were causing... I *think* he was joking?
Hebden Bridge was much more intimate, a real working mens' club in the middle of nowhere (a foggy but very pretty nowhere). A much more mellow crowd, but in a really lovely, friendly, appreciative way - you got the feeling these people were prepared to travel ages to see a gig this good (just like us haha). We got to stay for the lock-in/jam session after the show where Nick and his opening act Jont (whose set we missed due to various weather and car-related delays!) noodled around playing Jont's songs for over half an hour. I would have loved to hear more of Nick's songs but they were lovely anyway. We were huddled up on the floor by the stage - we figured it was some cosmic treat for spending over 2 hours trying to get there!
Tons of funny banter both nights, like when he introduced Building Our Own Temple:
Nick: "This one's for anyone who says, 'My god's better than your god'..."
Punter: "My god's better than your god!"
Nick: "...and means it." ;)
And let's not forget the "Mother Nature and the neurons in my brain" ramble, which can't be properly appreciated unless you hear it from the man himself - trust us, some of the best comedy comes from repetition, and it's what changes that makes it funny too! Check it out on the live album if you haven't heard it for yourself.
The "devil" leads the festivities during "Titties and Beer" at the St. Helens Citadel
The setlists for the two nights (with help from and thanks to posters on the Stormcock mailing list) included:
He had a few minor hitches remembering song lyrics, but nothing major. I was thinking, poor guy, but those painkillers for his arm must be good! He only had a brace on his elbow, otherwise he said he was fine, except he had too much pain to play songs with twisting motions like he makes playing Radio Silence. I'm impressed that he's healed this quickly, to be honest, as I didn't think this tour would go ahead. Okay, either he's healed or he's bloody stubborn - I'd probably go for the latter...
Hey, we're generous, and we don't mind sharing Nick with his adoring public... not as long as we get to enjoy shows as good as these. :)