Half Man Half Biscuit at The Assembly Hall, Worthing

The Assembly Hall in Worthing is a vast space. It was an empty vast space when I arrived and I wondered if it would fill in time for the main act, Half Man Half Biscuit. With its Art Deco interior and stage complete with proscenium arch, flanked by relief sea horses, you can’t help feeling that it might suit a tea dance circa 1934 (when it was built) instead.

Ideal Accompaniment

Whilst I was pondering the vastness of the venue and the slightly giddy feeling that I may have travelled back in time, an audience materialised just in time for the supporting act, Jd Meatyard, backed by Michael McNeil (guitar) and Gary Ward (drums). Jd himself bemoaned the lack of Guinness – as had I earlier – and rightly so, as it was St Patrick’s night and there was not even a can of stout available, neither for love nor money. So we sympathised with this feisty Celt with his trademark woolly hat and warmed to him all the more, whilst he and his backing band did their job of warming us up for the main act. This they did admirably, belting out favourites such as ‘Olive Tree’ and ‘Jesse James’. A folk singer/songwriter/guitarist (with a solid hint of rock), Jd Meatyard’s lyrics are blunt and root for the working man. This is what makes him the ideal accompaniment to Half Man Half Biscuit and aside from the anticipation for the latter, I could have listened to his melodious tunes and the slick energy of these three men all evening.

Worthing Mosh Pit

Then Half Man Half Biscuit. Casting my mind back to the chill of standing in an empty hall when one has arrived at the time of the doors opening, by the time this talented band graced the stage, the audience was sweltering as much as anyone on stage, with the volume of people it comprised. This is testament to the following that this indie rock band, with leanings towards post-punk and folk, still has after thirty-odd years. Starting with ‘Bob Wilson – Anchorman’, we were treated to their sometimes satirical, sometimes just plain bizarre lyrics, set to original tunes. Well, actually, you would recognise some tunes and when you finally experience the epiphany of identifying that tune as, say, that hymn you learnt at primary school, you’ll chuckle at the cheeky lyrics that have been swapped in. One such offering was ‘Paintball’s Coming Home’ and with lines such as ‘They’ve got the whole world in their house … To see their new conservatory,’ you get a clear sense of the band’s allusions towards the predictability of the middle classes. This type of social commentary, coupled with lead vocalist/guitarist Nigel Blackwell’s clear voice with its regional dialect, put me in mind of Billy Bragg’s musings on the times we live in … with a hefty splash of Tom Lehrer-esque black humour.
“I want to bob!” went up a cry from the audience.
“Go for it,” I replied, “there’s a bob pit down the front!”
But in fact, it soon became a mosh pit and I marvelled at the fact there was a fully functioning mosh pit somewhere in Worthing.
Rounding off the evening with ‘The Trumpton Riots’, because ‘All this aristocracy … Has really got to stop’, this energetic band left an audience with a feel-good factor suitably off the scale to last till the following weekend.

Reviewed by Lisa O’Connor at the Assembly Hall, Worthing, on Friday March 17th 2017.

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