Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott

I’m heading down Oxford Road and feeling festive. Students abound in Christmas jumpers, work do’s are spilling out of Kro and Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott are playing a charity* gig at Academy 2. Not even Scrooge himself could turn down a mince pie.

The Beautiful South duo reunited this year for the underrated ‘What Have We Become’, which Heaton says is an extension of his solo work rather than a new Beautiful South record. Either way, the songs are the best he’s recorded in years and having quit The South to concentrate on bringing her kids up, it’s more than a welcome return for Abbott’s smooth soulful voice.

Kicking off with new album opener ‘Moulding of a Fool’ a chatty crowd comes alive as swathes of people negotiate their way forward, many juggling multiple pints. Any fear this is a nostalgia trip is expunged as the 900 strong audience join in with the catchy but morbid chorus of ‘revolution won’t be televised and neither will your death’.

New charity single ’Real Hope’ is a less than subtle swipe at X Factor and is received well but pick of the new tunes is DIY, an upbeat country jam covering one of Heaton’s favourite topics, a gutsy response to losing a lover.

While the new songs are grand, it wouldn’t be a party without some classics and Paul Heaton has had more hits than hot dinners. From a raucous ‘Carry On, Regardless’ to their famous cover of Fred Neil’s ‘Everybody’s Talking’, tonight is a great big sing-along.

While the stompers suit Paul and his unmistakably northern dancing, the slower moments undoubtedly belong to Jacqui. A gorgeous rendition of Etta James’ Loving Arms is bettered by the pop classic ‘Don’t Marry Her’, complete with original explicit chorus. Fuck me, indeed.

It is during the double encore that the pair really shine. A touching performance of ‘Rotterdam’, dedicated to Abbott’s son on his 19th birthday, leads into The Housemartins giddy anthem ‘Happy Hour’ and for those with trains to catch, that is that. The lucky ones with nowhere to be are treated to an electro-funk version ‘Perfect 10’ before a capella hit ‘Caravan of Love’ brings the house down.

Christmas is a time for giving, and for his wonderful songwriting and tireless campaigning, it’s hard to think of anyone who has given more than Paul Heaton. A true national treasure.

*Attendees were asked to bring contributions for local foodbanks while the gig was in aid of the following charities: / / @uwcmanchester

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Jacqui Abbott Facebook Twitter

Joseph Curran

Features Editor and gig reviewer