Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott @ Civic Hall, Wolverhampton 25th November, 2017

It’s been two years since I was last in the Civic, not due to tardiness but due to the fact it’s been closed for refurbishment. However, apart from the extra security checks to get into the building (standard these days since the Manchester atrocity) there really doesn’t seem to have been much work done inside. There’s a few wires hanging from the ceiling and some, what appear to be temporary, tube lights, but otherwise it’s the same old Civic.

Some gigs have re-started and tonight it’s Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott. Both have a history, Paul notably starting with the Housemartin’s and then forming the Beautiful South with Jacqui. Both bands were successful and both disbanded at their peak, with Paul and Jacqui forming a duo. This also has been a success and with their past pedigree you’d not expect anything less. The recent album, ‘Crooked Calypso’, is their third album and contains the usual high standard wit, with a subtle political undertone and social commentary.

But the songs to really get tonight’s sold out crowd singing are the older ones, take ‘Rotterdam’, which the crowd sung the chorus actually drowning out Jacqui. Having said that the PA sound was on the low side, and when Paul was doing some of his many in-between songs chat he couldn’t be heard due to the low volume, but also the large number who’d paid good money to come along and shout at each other. Maybe it’s an alcohol issue, or maybe they have come by mistake but whilst this is becoming a common scenario at gigs these days, tonight was one of the worst I’ve encountered.

Opening with ‘The Lord is a White Con’ (of which there is also a T-shirt available for sale) they move through their huge back catalogue, and an early treat is ‘Five get over excited’. “Hello Wolverhampton, this is our 15th time here”, or at least that’s what I think he said as the shouty people were in full swing. ‘The Austerity of Love’ features a similar tune to ‘The Liquidator’ (Harry J Allstars) and being an old song associated with the Wolves football club it gets sung along by several football fans. Well to be fair there has been a 5-1 victory today and as Paul later says “I suppose I should congratulate you on being top of the League”. Indeed so Paul, indeed so.

‘Sheep’ is sublime and instantly I’m back to my youth, that sweaty night at the Powerhouse in 1986. The song hasn’t aged even though my aching knees have. Paul then tells us about the new album, but hearing what he’s saying borders on the impossible, but I do catch that signed copies are for sale and they sold 78 in Glasgow.

The band are introduced as different names from people, apparently, in ‘I’m a celebrity get me out’ as on the road the band are having a sweepstake. I must admit it’s lost on my ears and I’ve no idea who the names are.

More sing-a-longs accompany ‘Old Red Eyes is Back’ and ‘Perfect 10’, ‘Don’t Marry Her’ as the hits keep coming. The set ends amid streamers and ‘You Keep It All In’, but we’re not going anywhere and soon enough we get not one, but two encores, ending with a sublime ‘Caravan of Love’.

It truly was magical and walking out into the cold air, seeing the Christmas lights, seeing your breath, humming along still to that song, it does feel that Christmas is around the corner. But, lets be serious, it’s November, so enough of that.

It’s been a perfect day. Wolves won at home, and are indeed top of the table. The Civic is hosting live music again and tonight most had a great time and sang along to old favourites. I have to admit I did get a little sentimental at hearing the Housemartin’s songs again live, for those four lads from Hull were brilliant back in the day. To hear them again, live, some 30 years on was wonderful.

Paul and Jacqui are, you could argue, made for each other. Their vocals and harmonies are idyllic. I was expecting more of a social commentary, given their backdrop is reminiscent of the old miner’s march banners, but it was not to be. Tonight was about music, really good music.

Crooked Calypso is out now on Virgin EMI records.

Set-list

The Lord is a White Con

Moulding of a Fool

Five Get Over Excited

Harder You Try

Rotterdam

Sheep

Sail This Ship Alone

He Wants To

I Don’t See Them

Liar’s Bar

She Got The Garden

Me and The Farmer

DIY

Old Red Eyes Is Back

Perfect 10

I gotta Praise

Don’t Marry Her

Good as Gold (Stupid as Mud)

You Keep It All In

A Little Time

Happy Hour

Song for Whoever

Caravan of Love

 

Reviewer: Glenn Raybone

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