Online gigs might have started off as a necessity, but it turns out that they are far better than just a fall-back option, as proven by the hour-long set from Miles Hunt on Saturday afternoon, broadcast via Facebook.
Beginning with Here Comes Everyone, the lyrics “There is no us. There is only I,” were a reminder (should we need one) that he was on his sofa and we were somewhere in the vicinity of ours. In many ways, though, it was a good reminder that we’re not alone. Miles, for instance, had his dog (Winky) for company.
So impressed was Winky with song one that he climbed up on the top of the sofa, like a canine crowd surfer, for a better view of his master’s handiwork. The comment bar at the bottom of the screen streamed with positivity. ‘Talking’ at gigs usually makes the meek and mild listener metamorphose into the mad and murderous, but this felt different (not just due to its noiseless quality). What you could read in words was what you’d usually read in people’s facial expressions and body language – alongside the occasional, “Watching from the salubrious truck park at Frankley Services,” like something out of an Alan Bennett monologue.
The viewing figures on the top left of the screen peaked at 2.1K, so you could imagine yourself shoulder to shoulder with that many people in an equivalent local venue.
The hour was warm, thoughtful, companionable and surprising. In response to an invitation for people to submit requests in advance, Miles had drawn up an eclectic setlist that required some specific rehearsal in the preceding week. It would have been easy to knock out tunes from recent solo album, The Custodian or to replicate a festival set from the summer of 2019, but there was plenty for the aficionados.
A particular blast from the dim and distant was Manna From Heaven from his first solo album, Hairy on the Inside, which drew an appreciative bark from Winky. Miles called him back up onto the sofa for a dog treat with an encouraging, “Hup!” Whether it was deliberate or not, it didn’t go unnoticed.
Lockdown reminders cropped up in so many of the songs. Listening to “These streets used to look big. This town used to look like a city,” in Caught In My Shadow, was a reminder of how empty our world looks right now. On The Ropes’ declaration of, “We’re on the ropes; we’re on the floor. It doesn’t have to be that way no more,” felt additionally motivating and the entirety of We Hold Each Other Up was equally topical and emotional. Even Miles needed a top-up on his chardonnay afterwards.
Throw in The Sweetest of Bitterest Ends from his album with Erica Nockalls, We Came Here To Work, and you had a run of four songs which provided the emotive apex of the hour. The latter felt like it could have been a break-up song to old ways, with hope for our future.
There had to be some Stuffies karaoke, and it came in the form of the final three tunes, Golden Green, Don’t Let Me Down Gently (“Did the memories, odours, or regrets of college discos come flooding back to you? Jaysus!”) and Ruby Horse. The final song was in fond tribute to Martin Gilks to mark the anniversary of his passing. The show ran on a high level of emotion, mixed with urbane humour.
Miles ended the hour with “Stay safe. Stay well. Stay responsible for those around us. God bless the NHS.” As he sang, “Funny me and funny you,” you couldn’t help but appreciate that we’re living in funny peculiar days indeed, but as he lapsed into the Vic Reeves club style, it definitely reminded you of how sharing joy is still eminently possible.