Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott at Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Paul Heaton, brainchild of hit-makers The Housemartins and The Beautiful South, was, in his heyday, one of the most talented song-writers of the 80s and 90s, creating soulful, melodic hits with dry northern wit and scowling poeticism. Throughout their 19-year-long career The Beautiful South morphed through a number of different guises with three different female soloists, including Briana Corrigan and Alison Wheeler enacting the band’s his and hers kitchen-sink musical dramas.
After a disappointing solo career Heaton has reunited with his most definitive female counterpart Jacqui Abbott, responsible for hits such as Rotterdam, Perfect 10 and Don’t Marry Her. During Heaton’s brief solo career calls for Abbott to rejoin her old musical pal abounded from fans, and in a live setting it’s easy to see why. Abbott seems to have foiled time looking and sounding just as she did in the mid 90s. Her voice retains its husky, country rasp and mellifluous lilting tones. Age, however, seems to have taken its toll upon Heaton: his once crisp, lofty melodies lack their previous sharpness and he uses his song sheet all too often in search of his infamous lyrics.
The teeming crowd are receptive and vocal, dancing and cheering along to the The Beautiful South’s bygone hits as well as catchy tracks from The Housemartins such as Build and Happy Hour. Thrown into the set are some of Heaton and Abbott’s songs from their recent album What Have We Become. These new tunes fit well with the buoyant atmosphere, particularly DIY, their lively new single with a chipper country edge, Some Dancing to Do which knits together a jubilant waltz tempo with the pair’s lilting and perfectly pitched harmonies and Moulding of a Fool where dark lyrics hide behind fast and lighthearted melodies: “The revolution won’t be televised and neither will your death” they sing, to clanging drums and spiralling guitar.
Despite the toll of the years dampening Heaton’s vocal talents, the pair deliver a tremendous performance culminating in an utterly beautiful a cappella rendition of The Housemartins’ Caravan of Love. It’s moments like this that remind us that Heaton and Abbott have certainly not lost their edge yet.
Photos: Guifre de Paray
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Watch the video for DIY here: