In a month of epic gigs in Greater Manchester, Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott (of The Beautiful South) arrived just down the road gracing the stage at the home of Stockport County for 2 nights last week. Una was there reporting for The Journalix, enjoying the night like a good old-fashioned family reunion…
PAUL HEATON & JACQUI ABBOTT, EDGELEY PARK, 20 JUNE 2019
Supported by Mercury prize nominated Richard Hawley, another born-and-bred in Sheffield, he was the perfect remedy to warm us up nicely on a not-so-warm early summer’s evening. But when it was time for the main act the crowd were more than ready to sing their hearts out. With Paul and Jacqui performing the album “Last King of Pop” in full we knew we were going to get a night of greatest hits spanning over 30 years. What a treat.
The pair came on to rapturous applause and kicked it off with “Old Red Eyes Is Back”. One of The Beautiful South’s perfect sing-along 90s hits. The crowd were singing from the very first word and this would continue throughout the show.
Not just singing, but dancing too. And I don’t mean the usual sway from side to side, or bopping up and down. I mean swinging arms around each other, jumping in the air. And there were no bystanders in this crowd either, including the security staff, one of whom I caught having a little dance arm in arm with a group of gig-goers. With this setlist I can’t help but compare it to a house party from my childhood, but with about 15,000 more cousins. It felt nostalgic.
Paul Heaton’s voice sounded the same as every recording I’ve ever heard. Absolutely flawless. Jacqui sounded sensational. Their voices compliment each other perfectly, it’s no wonder they have chosen to keep making music together over the years. When it was Jacqui’s turn to take a solo, Paul would dance along and vice versa. They clearly enjoyed every minute of the performance.
Paul had the crowd hanging on his every word, speaking to them throughout and getting the whole stadium involved in his conversation. After performing “Flag Day”, Housemartin’s first release, he asked everybody who had gone out and bought the single back in 1986. Half the crowd put their hands up. “It got to #124, put your hands down”. Big laugh.
It was a lovely touch when he described a memory of recording nearby in Stockport at Yellow 2 Studios back in the 80s, then coming to watch Stockport County play afterwards. What was just a pleasant little anecdote you’d tell down the pub got a massive cheer. He’s a true pro. His on-stage persona mirrors his lyrics we know so well: witty, loveable, and wonderfully Northern.
Towards the end of the main set came an up-tempo version of “A Little Time”, The Beautiful South’s biggest commercial hit and only #1 single. For any members of the crowd who hadn’t listened to the album beforehand this re-invention was a bit of a surprise, but once the chorus started it seemed to go down very well. And who can’t resist joining in with that duet?
After two, yes two, encores, Paul and Jacqui finished off with arguably Paul’s best loved sing-along hit “Song for Whoever”. My personal favourite, and surely one of the best opening liners to a pop song “I love you from the bottom of my pencil case”.
What a joyous evening, I wonder if they’re free for my next family reunion…?