80. Blackpool, Empress Ballroom, 12 May 2006

We are all travelling to Blackpool separately. I arrive after taking an early train to find Keiko smoking a cigarette outside the station. We walk into town and go for a coffee and a chat. There are already funny vibes on this tour, but she managed to speak to Thom in Amsterdam. She heard about the solo record. We are feeling old school. We look at this week’s NME and giggle. We go back to the station where we find Yama and wait for the others to arrive. Once everyone is here we go in separate directions to find our B&Bs. I take Gabi via a route that passes the venue, streets and streets of cheap guest houses. We freshen up then go back to The Wintergardens.

Some of the others are already waiting at the venue but Chris suggests we go for fish and chips on the pier and marvel at the surreal nature of Blackpool. Gabi, coming from Argentina, finds a lot of things about Britain strange, but Blackpool takes the prize for the oddest place she’s been to see the band. She finds it dirty and brash, not to her taste. Having been here before, I have a weird affection for the place. Off season seaside towns appeal to my English sense of failed romanticism. They’re a bad joke, a Morrissey lyric, a faded childhood dream… tawdry and greasy and loud.

In the amusements on the pier we run into Tim who is looking for somewhere to watch the England football match and Mel from W.A.S.T.E. with her kids. We walk through the slot machines and the flashing lights of the arcade games with them, trying to explain the unique appeal of the British seaside to Gabi.

Friday night in Blackpool. The gig is a blur as they so often are. I have a Daily Telegraph review from the following Monday which notes that the band’s greatness can be judged by the songs they leave out – they’ve got more good songs that they can fit into a two hour show. There is room for six new ones tonight:  Bangers and Mash (with the tiny drum kit); the ripping guitars of Bodysnatchers; Nude (formerly known as “Don’t Get Any Big Ideas” which has been kicking around since at least 1998, it’s lost it’s ‘I’ll Wear It Proudly’ harmonium and turned into a slinky, tingly “ballad”. They don’t really do ballads but that’s critics for you). There’s also 15 Step with its electro jerks and House of Cards completing the handful of new numbers. The review notes that no new album is as yet on the books. But we’ve been here before and we know how it works.