Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott at The Roundhouse
Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott’s collaborations have never been considered particularly cool or fashionable. Even in their Beautiful South heyday, when singles Rotterdam and Don’t Marry Her were hugely popular Top 10 hits, they stood out like sore thumbs next to their Britpop contemporaries and gained an unfair reputation for making music your mum liked. Now middle-aged and finally free of the burden of having to appear trendy, the focus is back on what they do best – recording and performing catchy, unpretentious pop songs with a satirical edge.
Playing in front of a large banner that reads “Paul and Jacqui say Britain needs a pay rise”, their 22-song set at The Roundhouse spans Heaton’s impressive discography, including tracks from The Housemartins, The Beautiful South, and his and Abbott’s 2014 release What Have We Become? Many of the songs are fan favourites and have the audience enthusiastically dancing and singing along, with Good as Gold, Caravan of Love and Happy Hour receiving a particularly rapturous reception. The audience is mostly made up of men and women of a similar age to Heaton and Abbott, and this gives The Roundhouse a relaxed, positive vibe. Everyone here is encouraging and supportive of the duo, sporadically calling out declarations of love and affection.
Heaton responds in kind – praising his fans, telling amusing anecdotes about Gary Glitter and working minimum-wage jobs, and regularly apologising for his “dad dancing”. He’s an unassuming presence, shuffling across the stage in his jacket and jeans, but he has the crowd hanging on every wry word. Abbott, who Heaton refers to as “the hole punch to [his] ring binder”, lets her rich, smooth vocals speak for themselves, with the Etta James cover Loving Arms giving her the opportunity to show off her impressive range.
Of the new material, toe-tapper Moulding of a Fool stands out by contrasting a pounding feel-good hook with extremely pessimistic lyrics such as “your death will pass unnoticed like a hiccup or a cough”, and the infectious Costa Del Sombre sounds like good, late era Morrissey. However, the night belongs to golden oldies and Heaton’s pleading, desperate vocal on the bittersweet Let Love Speak Up Itself steals the show, provoking several spontaneous rounds of applause.
Based on this gig, Heaton and Abbott are better than ever and will hopefully enjoy an extended renaissance. Every musician should aspire to be this “uncool”.
Photos: Matthew Pull
For further information about Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Loving Arms here: