Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott at The Olympia Theatre – Review
Roy Cropper, a dark green anorak and an Asda bag for life. Not what you’d expect to see taking the stage at The Olympia. Awkwardly balancing his lyrics book, peering through over sized geeky glasses, he looks confused. Confused at the packed out venue making massive whoops of welcome. Luckily he has his smiling songbird to capture the crowd. No, it’s not Roy Cropper’s karaoke bingo bus tour. It’s Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, previously appreciated over three musical decades as The Housemartins and The Beautiful South.
First off “The Moulding Of A Fool” is unleashed. A newbie from Abbot and Heaton’s recent album “What Have We Become“. Pumping piano, delicate strings and a punctuating bass line candy coat the acidic lyrical observations bemoaning modern culture. Alcohol turning dreams to plasticine, cheapest shops, tightest tops, cigarettes and school bullies culminate in chorus for “Revolution won’t be televised and neither will your death.” It sets the pace for the retro rollercoaster of greatest hits and best bits from The Beautiful South and The Housemartins. Now fifty shades greyer than they were when these songs peaked, the audience indulges everything on offer. Reminiscing in “Pretties Eyes“, still seeking Ingrid Bergman’s kiss in “Carry On Regardless“, silly dancing to “Me And The Farmer“. Trading on the Roy Cropper jokes, Heaton says he has Hayley in the bag- which he only brought to fill full of Tayto, before dedicating “Old Red Eyes” to the generous folks of Temple Bar who rescued him on several drunken occasions.
Hidden amongst the hits is a song called “When It Was Ours” from the new album. It’s like the musical melting of a galaxy and a caramel bar. This vocal duo revisit a once loved location that’s now run down and shitty. It was all feathers, stars and daffodils in it’s glory. Now, “it’s other couples falling walls/ it’s other couples punctured balls “. A sombre lesson in not looking back is wrapped in vocal gold and delivered with melodramatic melancholy. “We just like singing it” understates Heaton. Yeah, we like you singing it too.
“Everybody’s Talking“, “Good As Gold” and “Don’t Marry Her” ramp up the retro. Jackie gets called “A Cracker” from fans in the pit, Paul dedicates a song to his daughters who have advised him to stop dancing. “Rotterdam” prevails with “All the men are gargoyles/dipped long in Irish stout/ the whole place is pickled/ the people are pickles for sure”. Yip, there’s a fair bit of midweek middle aged pickling going on here too. Memories are relived as the happiest of happy hours begins. “Happy hour, again and again and again/ It’s happy hour again.” They could have finished there but they gave the crowd ten per cent extra free in the encore with “Perfect 10” and a flawless acapella version of “Caravan Of Love.”
Paul, Jacqui and their band made magic here tonight. It’s rare to witness this intensity of connection between fans and artists. The people literally relived their youth to the music, indulging in ever second of it. I hope they all go out and buy “What Have We Become ” because the memories don’t have to end with the encore. And anyway Roy will need a new bag for life soon, they don’t come cheap you know.
Review by Ciara Sheahan