After The Beautiful South split in 2007, and the subsequent reformation of The Sound which saw other band members reform without Heaton or Abbott it could be easy to wonder what the duo had left to offer. The answer, is a lot. With a mix of Housemartin’s numbers, new material and the expected Beautiful South numbers it could have easily become a greatest hits show, but instead the pair manage to mix the set up enough to prove they’ve still got plenty to say.
Opening with the anthemic The Moulding of a Fool, their message fits with their backdrop which pays tribute to the GMB and simply states ‘Paul & Jacqui say Britain Needs a Payrise’. Elsewhere What Have We Become combines Heaton’s trademark humour with his razor sharp wit, in turn questioning a nation fuelled by consumption. It’s clear then that they’re not prepared to mess with their winning formula and rightly so, with the new songs sitting snugly aside the old, offering fresh perspectives amid familiar melodies and vocal harmonies.
Elsewhere the Housemartin’s numbers come thick and fast, We’re Not Deep, Build and Happy Hour all getting an airing. It quickly becomes clear that the sell out crowd contain many who’ve followed Heaton since his early battle of the band days in bars in Hull. Nevertheless Abbott is able to bring a fresh sound to the older classics especially in the rocky Me and the Farmer. Of the Beautiful South numbers it’s Perfect 10 which is mixed in with the Ghostbusters theme in a stroke of genius which becomes the song of the night.
Whilst Abbott shines during Everybody’s Talking (her audition song to join The Beautiful South) Paul get’s his moment during Let Love Speak Up Itself. It’s during these more tender moments that the depth of the duo’s magic really shines through, and when the defence of humour is stripped away it becomes clear that the music has a sense of heart which transcends both time and place. Meanwhile the more gospel sounding closing number Caravan of Love brings the crowd to a hush, those seated raising to their feet to sing along. As the crowd sings out ‘stand up, stand up, stand up’ it feels like a reawakening. It brings the political opening, back to the political as if we’ve been riled up to fight the establishment, whilst being gently reminded that the fight needs to contain compassion for all.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again; whilst the other members of the band might have reformed under The South title, it becomes clear that it’s Heaton and Abbott which made the whole thing beautiful. Tonight they reconfirm that whilst they may now be playing under their own names, like Paul’s desire to perform in his anorak other things simply will not change.