Last Thursday I was in a very excitable state. It had been a good day at work. I was off to see Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott for the second time this year. And I was about to set foot in the Albert Hall.
No. Not that Albert Hall. The Albert Hall, a former Wesleyian Chapel in the centre of Manchester and one of Manchester’s shiny tiled Victorian buildings of beauty. It is now a music venue operated by those Northern Quarter types from Trof. They may never have known it, but this was always my plan. I have long looked at the grimy exterior of the building in days gone by and it featured in my dreams should I ever win the lottery. I was going to take this building and give it the Marvellous Mechanical Mouse Organ mice treatment. I would mend it, fix it, stickle it and fix it like new, new, new. And turn it into a music venue. But I have yet to win the lottery and Trof got there before I did. So I will just have to content myself with bringing the Space Shuttle to Manchester when I win big.
So I was tremendously excited to go there to see Heaton and Abbott once again. Neither Albert nor Paul nor Jacqui let me down. The building inside has not been knocked around. It is still so obviously a chapel. With a slightly complicated one way system for getting up and down to the toilets. Which may have confused a lady who stopped to ask me directions.
Shaven headed and basically square in body shape, this is not the first time I have been mistaken for Security. So this lady had good reason to think I might know where she should go as she pointed to a wristband and explained she was the mother of the guitarist.
“How tremendously fun,” I replied, instantly revealing that I was an unlikely bouncer as I spoke like one of the Famous Five.
“Well,” she said, evidently wearied by the one way system, “it used to be exciting.”
I hope she found where she needed to be. And I hope that she felt the excitement of the audience as her son took the stage. I am sure she was proud.
Many moons ago a friend of mine decried my love for The Beautiful South by complaining there was just too much irony. Can you have too much irony? Certainly not when they began their set, up on the altar of a stage and the pipes of a church organ behind them, with The Lord is a White Con from their latest album Crooked Calypso.
In between Moulding of a Fool, Five Get Over-Excited and The Fat Man, Paul explained to us that Crooked Calypso missed out on number one spot because of lack of streaming on Spotify. He observed that his audience probably thought that the CD was a new fangled development. And looking around it was hard to disagree. I seemed to be standing amongst a sea of shaven headed/bald men of a certain age. These were very much my people.
One of my fellow baldies observed to his bald mate (sorry, there were no other distinguishing features) that Paul was “good at lyrics” as Jacqui Abbott applied her pitch perfect voice to the words of Rotterdam;
And women tug their hair
Like they’re trying to prove it won’t fall out
And all the men are gargoyles
Dipped long in Irish stout
As an observation, this is like saying Van Gogh did good at Art and Design. Paul Heaton is the poet laureate of the broken hearted. He gives soul to the heart of the North. He even manages to give beauty to the South.
Like all true greats at their trade he does the simple things well. Their next song was The Austerity of Love with the part chorus;
The obesity of love
The propensity of love
The depravity of love
The austerity of love
One word change, each building a tempo on the previous, and each speaking something different of the complexity of love. In a catchy pop song.
The chap next to me, he was bald by the way, was getting quite emotional around the time of I’ll Sail This Ship Alone and She Got the Garden. I detected a hint of recent divorce. When we got to the line “She’ll grab your sweaty bollocks, then slowly raise her knee” in Don’t Marry Her I think he was convinced the whole show was dedicated to him.
The last couple of times that I have seen them, both Jacqui and Paul have been behind large music stands. This time they were released, Jacqui to stroll around and Paul to dance. And for fans of the Housemartins you will be glad to know it is still very much a loose knee style of dancing. But we all danced and we all sang and the room pulsated with the joy. So much so that two air cannon’s worth of gold glitter tape were greeted by a middle aged audience like puppies seeing their first snowflake.
And so they departed the stage having finished with the Beautiful South trio of Don’t Marry Her, Good as Gold and You Keep it All In. They carried on with the nostalgia in their first encore. A Little Time is a song by The Beautiful South which featured neither Paul nor Jacqui but was Dave Hemmingway and Brianna Corrigan. You would never have known it as they sang this tale of marital strife to a hushed room.
And as Jacqui told us with crystal clarity “promises, promises turn to dust, wedding bells just turn to rust” a very Boltonian voice just couldn’t keep it all in.
“Don’t they just,” said the bald divorced chap, with perfect timing and a little rhyme. Pop concerts can be therapy too.
Of course we had Happy Hour. Of course we had a second encore with a Song for Whoever and Caravan of Love. And then it was all over. All over that is until July when they return to the Castlefield Bowl. So I am off to get my tickets for that. I do not claim that this is a review, for there is no hint of criticism. I am a fan. But I will be a disappointed fan if the fabulous song Market Street does not get an airing at Castlefield. Come on, you know it makes sense.