Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott at Hammersmith Apollo
The founding member of The Housemartins and The Beautiful South was joined on stage by current collaborator, former Beautiful South vocalist Jacqui Abbott, on Thursday 7th December for a set full of classic hits and newer material from the pair’s three studio albums.
Its subject matter may spark debate, but tunefully The Lord Is a White Con was a fine upbeat number to kick things off, its infectious piano groove starting up before Heaton and Abbott came out on to the stage to the sound of thunderous applause.
After Moulding of a Fool, from their first album as a duo – 2014’s What Have We Become – Heaton revealed that tonight was his 40th gig in 32 years as a performer. He commented on this milestone again during the course of the evening and thanked the crowd more than once for their support over the years, saying that it means more to him now than ever.
The Housemartins’ hit from 1987, Five Get Over Excited – a track the songwriter said the band performed at their first London show 32 years ago – was fantastic, as was Rotterdam, that unforgettable Beautiful South tune from 21 years ago, which was expertly sung by the brilliant Jacqui Abbott, surely one of the most underrated vocalists in pop history.
Heaton noted that the pair’s most recent LP, Crooked Calypso, reached number two in the album charts and was only held off the top spot by Lana Del Rey. “We actually sold more albums than her, but our fans don’t know how to stream,” he joked.
A truly mesmerising performance came in the form of I’ll Sail This Ship Alone, Paul Heaton clearly demonstrating why he’s one of the finest soul singers this country has ever produced. His breathtaking rendition deservedly drew prolonged appreciation, which he humbly acknowledged.
There was a decent smattering of Housemartins and Beautiful South songs among the newer material – no Prettiest Eyes though, sadly – although some of them seemed to have been speeded up from their original form, most notably the still highly enjoyable Don’t Marry Her.
The audience enthusiastically participated throughout, happily singing along to tune after tune. Their singing on Good As Gold (Stupid as Mud), You Keep It All In and Song for Whoever, with Abbott taking the part originally sung by fellow Beautiful South singer Dave Hemingway, was particularly moving.
Heaton and Abbott were in fine voice and almost seem to have found a new lease of life away from the constraints of being in a band. The pair will be embarking on another UK tour in June 2018 and any fans of their music – old and new – would not come away disappointed.
Photo: Matthew Pull
For further information and future events, visit the Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott website here.
Watch the video for I Gotta Praise here: