28th November | Colston Hall
Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott have never been in fashion. Despite being part one of the biggest selling bands of the 90s in The Beautiful South, and Heaton’s part in seminal indie band, The Housemartins, they still don’t get the plaudits they deserve for crafting witty, dark and dirty pop songs.
But where Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott often lack critical acclaim or retrospective pondering, they make up for in the rabid nature of those that still take inspiration from their music. This can be from sources like bands such as Los Campesinos! or Frankie and the Heartstrings, or in Colston Hall, where a nearly sold-out crowd is waiting patiently for the duo.
Heaton and Abbott enter the stage with their band, a huge, Soviet-esque mural draped behind them, and rattle straight into the smooth, country stomp of new album cut, ‘The Lord is a White Con’. Whilst the tight, shimmering nature of the first few newer tracks keeps the audience entranced, it’s when the band launch into Housemartins classic, ‘Five Get Over Excited’ that a wave of energy ripples through Colston Hall.
From there on in, the set is hit after hit, and it’s hard to get your head around quite how many huge songs Heaton has written, with he himself admitting that, “Spotify is the only way I can remember.” ‘Rotterdam’ gets the whole venue swaying, with Abbott’s soaring vocals stealing the show, whilst ‘Me and the Farmer’ has Heaton picking up a guitar, helping to recreate the original’s boundless energy.
Despite his protestations of age, Heaton’s voice still soars when it wants to, and the energy and chemistry that he has with Abbott means songs like ‘I’ll Sail This Ship Alone’ leave the room breathless.
Heaton then sets to introducing his band (by which contestant they’ve got money on for I’m A Celebrity…) before the stage is drenched in red for, you guessed it, ‘Old Red Eyes is Back’, the witty, yet stark lyrics of a man drinking himself to death still being as moving as ever.
For someone whom NME named one of ‘the lamest frontmen of all time’ in 2012, Heaton is charming, touching and full of energy throughout the set, switching between bouncing along to old Housemartins classics, and becoming an almost preacher-like figure on some of the songs from new album, Crooked Calypso.
Every drunken aunt’s favourite party song, ‘Perfect 10’ is ripped through at break-neck speed, while the equally blue ‘Don’t Marry Her’ has an entire crowd – most of whom seem to be here with their significant other – yelling, “Don’t marry her, fuck me.”
And the hits don’t stop coming. ‘Good as Gold (Stupid as Mud)’ is accompanied by the biggest confetti cannon I have ever witnessed (gold obviously), whilst the crowds adoration is rewarded during ‘You Keep It All In,’ as both Heaton and Abbott step back, letting the room belt out the second verse, before heading off stage for their first of two – yes two – encores.
Almost just to prove that they can still surprise us, the first encore sees the band twisting ‘A Little Time’ from the tender piano ballad it is on record to a crunching Southern honky-tonk, sounding weirdly like Elvis’ ‘Way Down’. There’s another huge burst of confetti for ‘Happy Hour’, before the band are ducking off stage again, re-emerging to nail ‘Song for Whoever’ with even better harmonies than the original.
There is literally only one song that Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott could finish with, the first song that Heaton performed on that got to number one, ‘Caravan of Love’. It’s just as timeless and beautiful as the Housemartins’ recording, but joined by the whole of Colston Hall, it’s a reminder of just how powerful Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbot’s music is, and how great songwriting never goes out of style.
Watch the video for ‘I Gotta Praise’ below: