The Duckworth Lewis Method LIVE @ Glee Club, Birmingham 29.09.13

On the final stop of what has been a packed summer of dates, The Duckworth Lewis Method brought their unique brand of cricket-themed, ‘70s-tinged rock to a cheerful audience at the Glee Club in Birmingham. The group is made up of the songwriting duo of The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon and Pugwash’s Thomas Walsh, in the roles of Lewis and Duckworth respectively. Their self-titled debut was released on the eve of the 2009 Ashes and following England’s victory in that series, they deemed themselves lucky charms. So befitting that role they returned earlier this year, just in time for the Aussies to get trounced on English soil yet again, with ‘Sticky Wickets’, another album of daft, witty and infinitely hummable tunes based around the game that few truly understand and even fewer love. Not of course that you’d know that from the buoyant Glee Club crowd who joined in enthusiastically on tunes with tongue-in-cheek titles like ‘Boom Boom Afridi’ and ‘Nudging and Nurdling’ without a hint of irony.

 

Taking to the stage to the backing of Booker T. & the MGs’ ‘Soul Limbo’, famous as the theme tune to the BBC’s ‘Test Match Special’, the band looked every inch the part of a Sunday league team. With Hannon sporting an impressive handlebar moustache, walking out with a pipe and glass of wine in-hand, alongside the less-than-athletically-built Walsh, I was instantly reminded of some of the colourful characters you really only find in cricket, the like I used to face in my playing days. Hannon and Walsh were complimented on the night by a drummer, bassist and guitarist culled variously from the main bands of the two frontmen, making it something of a busman’s holiday for all involved. On the last night of any tour, the odd mistake can be forgiven but that wasn’t necessary here. The band were terrific throughout with flawless harmonies and ruthlessly proficient playing but with just the right amount of feel and good sense to allow the songs breathing room to allow the humour and charm of their authors to show.

They opened stridently with the title track from ‘Sticky Wickets’, an XTC-meets-Rolling Stones tune that started the set off in fine style. For the next song ‘The Age of Revolution’, Hannon set down his guitar and took a seat behind the keyboard where he stayed for much of the evening. It’s odd to see Hannon, the sole driving force behind The Divine Comedy for many years take a backseat but Walsh made it clear in the break between songs that he was taking the wheel here in Birmingham. With the former wondering if Edgbaston Cricket Ground is far from the venue, all the Pugwash man wants to know is is Shard End nearby, the birthplace and old stomping grounds of his biggest musical influence, Jeff Lynne. (Sadly, no one had the heart to tell him it’s a bit of a dump.) ‘In the Middle’, ‘Mason on the Boundary’ and ‘Sweet Spot’ could all be lost ELO cuts and at times Walsh sounded so uncannily similar to Lynne, you really could close your eyes and think they’ve just put on ‘Out of the Blue’ and nipped off down the pub.

Walsh’s enthusiasm for all things Lynne had him belting out self-accompanied Idle Race and The Move tunes between numbers, much to Hannon’s exasperation. When asked by Hannon why they don’t do covers of bands from places like Norwich or Bristol when they visit them, guitarist Tosh Flood on loan from Pugwash bluntly stated: “’Cause their bands are shite” to loud approval from the local crowd. Taking the mic, he then boldly announced: “This one’s called ‘War Pigs’!” earning easily the biggest laugh of the night. No love was lost for Birmingham’s other famous sons, Duran Duran, however, Flood declaring lead singer Simon LeBon a “steamer”, reportedly Irish slang for a “nice man” though few believed that, while Walsh, still burned by a snub at the Ivor Novello Awards where LeBon presented their category, declared “I’ll burst all the tyres on his yacht!” The rib-tickling banter from the band in their set made for a warm, jovial atmosphere, with Walsh getting in digs at Hannon’s ‘Celebrity Mastermind’ win (“He won a box of tissues”), his apparent wealth (“If you’re thinking of robbing him… watch out for the moat”) and his limited knowledge of Birmingham bands (“He loves UB40.”)

In a 90-minute show genuinely packed start to finish with great performances and funny asides, there were still stand-out moments. A hilarious interlude saw the band mock-sheltering under umbrellas as “rain stopped play” miming their frustration, Walsh deadpanning afterwards “Its art.” The spectacular ‘Line and Length’ took surprising inspiration from Prince and Art of Noise, with sparse electric guitars and industrial drums but the best song of the night, and arguably The Duckworth Lewis Method’s signature tune, was ‘Jiggery Pokery’, a song detailing the mindset of Mike Gatting as he became victim to Shane Warne’s famous delivery in the 1993 Ashes series. The singer even halted the song mid-verse to inform a fan he’d “spent too much time alone in his bedroom learning the words.” As a final tip of cap to Birmingham’s musical output, the band performed a cover of The Idle Race’s ‘On with the Show’ made extra special by Walsh inviting two former members of group along to see how their influence lives on today.

Ending with a lively rendition of ‘Meeting Mr. Miandad’ before Duran Duran came over the PA system, the audience were still chuckling at the in-joke as the five-piece band took their bows and left the stage. Many will still be humming the tunes to themselves and laughing at loud remembering the great lines from a top-notch evening at the Glee Club. It’s true what they (and Pringles) say: “Once you cricket pop, you just can’t stop!”

Elliott Homer
Elliott Homer is an undisputed master of understatement, a black belt holder in mixed metaphors and long-time deserving of some such award for length of time spent chatting rubbish about music down the pub. Studies show prolonged exposure to his scribblings can cause migraines, hysterical pregnancy, night terrors and/or acne, yet seldom encourages readers to agree with the author, in fact quite the reverse, much to his eternal frustration.