THE FRIDAY FIVE – 29.4.2016

1. Bruce Springsteen – Purple Rain
2. Iggy Pop – Gardenia
3. Band Of Skulls – So Good
4. The 1975 – A Change Of Heart
5. Garbage – Empty

This week saw the latest batch of headliners for Belsonic announced.

After moving away from their traditional August slot to June, they’ve now added new August gigs to compliment the June ones.

The first one announced was The Corrs, rather underwhelming. Thankfully, it got better after that.

I know I shouldn’t really complain about the line-up, I should know by now that it’s so diverse i’m not actually going to like every headlining act.

The ones that appeal the most to me are Madness and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. It’ll be just like 2012.

I remember blogging about the big risks Belsonic was taking when it increased from two nights, now look at it.

Fair play to Belsonic, they’ve never been shy in taking risks or being ambitious.

Undecided about the new venue, but i’m more than willing to give it a chance. Looking forward to Belsonic 2025, a 120 night event running from May to September.

Oh, here’s a chart based on the August acts.

FIVE SONGS BY ACTS APPEARING AT BELSONIC IN AUGUST

1. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – AKA What A Life
2. Madness – Lovestruck
3. Catfish and the Bottlemen – Kathleen
4. Fatboy Slim – Right Here Right Now
5. The Corrs – So Young

LINFIELD 4-0 CLIFTONVILLE 23.4.2016

After getting a first win at Solitude in four years, followed by a first league win over Cliftonville in three years, there was one little monkey Linfield needed to get off their backs before the season ended, a first home league win over Cliftonville since January 2013, a run that had seen four defeats and a draw in this fixture.

It’s a Sign Of The Times that supporters entering Windsor Park to the sound of Prince on the tannoy expected that run to end today.

Linfield had only one change from Tuesday night’s win at The Oval, an enforced one, with Aaron Burns coming in for the injured Matthew Clarke. Burns played a lot of his early career at left-back, but his goals over the last couple of seasons meant that Ross Gaynor was the one moving back.

It was Cliftonville who had the first chance of the game when sloppy play by Linfield allowed Davy McDaid to get space to shoot but he fired it over. He really should have scored.

On ten minutes, Aaron Burns was lucky to avoid a red card for a high studs up challenge, but it was only a yellow. If it was the other way around, we’d be screaming for a red.

Screaming for a red seemed to be what Cliftonville were doing most in the first-half, trying to goad Linfield players into a reaction that never came. Not this time, Linfield won’t be playing their game any more.

Martin Donnelly then hit the bar for Cliftonville. The top of the bar. A nervous moment, but not a worrying one for Linfield.

Donnelly hit the crossbar again from a free-kick, via Gareth Deane, starting his third successive game for Linfield, but a goal kick was awarded.

Cliftonville were having the better of the early moments without dominating. They were first to the second ball on too many occasions, perhaps unsurprising for a team with more to play for in terms of the league.

Thankfully for Linfield, Cliftonville were toothless up front. A better team would have punished Linfield for their first-half performance.

On 35 minutes, Linfield took the lead with their first moment of attacking quality, after working space for a cross out the left, Conor Devlin surprisingly dropped the ball, landing at Aaron Burns. Burns was able to control the ball and create enough space for him to fire into the empty net.

It wasn’t The Most Beautiful Goal In The World, but they all count.

An undeserved lead via a player lucky to be on the pitch, and nobody was really surprised such is the contrasting fortunes of both clubs at the moment.

Having gotten away with it in the first-half, Linfield made Cliftonville pay for it in the second-half, going 2-0 up in the early minutes when Paul Smyth worked enough room for a cross which was blocked, but fell invitingly for Kirk Millar to cross for Aaron Burns to score unmarked from a few yards.

That was the game won for Linfield, Cliftonville never looked like offering a fightback after that.

Kirk Millar had a chance to score, before later setting up Andrew Waterworth, but the joy was short lived as the goal was disallowed.

The third goal came when Paul Smyth broke free and ran towards goal. He had the option of setting up Aaron Burns for a hat-trick, but decided he fancied a goal himself, his low shot squeezing.

Again, most of Linfield’s attacks came through Smyth. Cliftonville’s main plan for trying to stop was was to get as many men as possible on him whenever he got the ball.

It didn’t matter how many were trying to stop them, he would find a way past them.

Smyth was involved in Linfield’s net goal, being fouled in the box for a penalty.

Aaron Burns was by now on the bench as Linfield made some substitutions to give other players some action.

If he was on the pitch, it would have been interesting to see who would have taken it, with Burns on a hat-trick. Gaynor was unchallenged when it came to taking it, and made it 4-0.

Glenavon’s 1-0 win at The Oval secured a UEFA Cup place for the Lurgan side, which denied Linfield fans the opportunity to laugh at Cliftonville fans cheering them on for two successive Saturdays.

At the final whistle, Linfield players gathered on the halfway line to do a lap of honour, as supporters applauded a team who offered them 90 goals so far in the league, a high for Linfield in a 38 game season.

Hopefully, there’ll be another lap of honour in two weeks time.

In terms of league action, that’s me for the season. I’ll be giving next week’s trip to Glenavon a miss.

It’ll be interesting to see what Linfield’s line-up will be for that game, wether a Swifts team will be selected, or if it will be used to pick the team that will play on May 7th, using the game as a dress rehearsal.

My guess is that it will be Swifts team, considering that Linfield’s starting eleven for the games against Glentoran and Cliftonville has given the biggest hint as to what that team will be on May 7th.

Mark Stafford might play at Mourneview Park but the cup final might be too soon for him. A place on the bench is the best he can hope for.

Ross Clarke’s absence from the last two games after his cameo against Coleraine suggest the cup final has come too soon for him.

Gareth Deane’s appearances in the last three games suggest that he will be in goals for the Irish Cup Final.

If everybody is fit, the defence should be Clarke, Haughey, Callacher, Ward. If Clarke isn’t fit, expect Ross Gaynor to fill in.

If Matthew Clarke isn’t fit, it will save David Healy having to make a difficult decision further up the pitch. The midfield should be Gaynor (if not left-back), Lowry, Mulgrew plus either Aaron Burns or Kirk Millar.

Ross Gaynor playing at left-back would mean Linfield could accommodate both Burns and Millar. If one of them was to miss out, they would be very unlucky considering both players current form.

Up front picks itself, with Waterworth and Smyth starting.

Subs will be interesting. Reece Glendinning should get the nod if Mark Stafford is unable to make the bench alongside whichever of Burns or Millar misses out. The other places should be a battle between David Kee, Niall Quinn, Guy Bates, Stephen Fallon, Ross Clarke and Ross Glendinning battling it out for the other three places

The excitement in the Irish League on the final day is at the bottom, with Carrick, Warrenpoint and Ballinamallard are battling to avoid the automatic spot, and hoping to drag Portadown in the Play-Offs.

Ards look the most likely to go up. I would be hoping our away game there is in the early months (sunny day on the seaside) but not the weekend in September when i’m in Liverpool.

Linfield haven’t played a competitive game in Bangor since 2009.

Possible Play-Off teams are Larne (I haven’t been there since 2005), Armagh City (I haven’t been there since 2006) or Institute (Nice ground to visit, easy to get to by public transport)

No offence to whoever in the Premiership gets the Play-Off place, but I wouldn’t be too unhappy if they lost.

And now, this is the time of year whenever I do my pre-season wishlist. So, here we go. All away games of course, at grounds I haven’t been to or haven’t been to for a while. Any of – Harland and Wolff Welders, Dundela, Moyola Park, PSNI, Larne (if not promoted)

Looking further afield, Ayr United are always inviting Irish League teams over for a friendly, it must be our turn. Maybe we could use our County Louth connections to get an away friednly against Drogheda? Would be nice.

The season isn’t over yet, there’s still the Irish Cup Final.

For me, after that, a trip to Old Trafford to see United take on Bournemouth. I’ve been twice to Old Trafford this season and have yet to see a United goal, so i’m hoping for a change in fortune.

Then, Northern Ireland v Belarus, before a planned day trip to Dublin over the May Bank Holiday, to hopefully catch some League Of Ireland action while i’m there.

An eventful season for Linfield is almost over, with a lot of optimism for the future. Hopefully, the wait for David Healy’s first trophy as Linfield manager has only two weeks left.

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BELFAST’S PURPLE RAIN

Belfast didn’t mess about when it came to paying tribute to Prince after his untimely death on Thursday, with a mural already appearing in the City Centre, featuring the symbol he changed his name to during the 1990s, surrounded by the colour purple, with which he was most associated.

If you want to see it in person, ypu can find it on Garfield Street, just off Royal Avenue, on the opposite side of Castle Court.

Garfield Street, and North Street which it leads on to, are real hotsbeds for Street Art, so you’ll see more than one piece of art when you come to visit it.

Of course, you won’t be far away from the David Bowie mural on Gresham Street.

The way 2016 is going, there won’t be much wall space in Belfast left for all the celebrities we’ve lost by the end of the year.

(PS : Yes, that is a bottle of Buckfast on the ground. Well, it is Belfast on a Saturday morning)

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THE FRIDAY FIVE – 22.4.2016

1. Blossoms – Getaway
2. Aurora – Conquerer
3. The Lumineers – Ophelia
4. Tegan and Sara – U-Turn
5. Space – Avenging Angels

As I type (Thursday night), news has just emerged that Prince has died. It doesn’t feel real.

I remember being in London in February 2014 when he was announcing random gigs at small venues, and hoping that he would announce one the weekend I was there and that I would get a ticket. It was not to be.

Soon after, he announced a series of UK gigs. I kept hoping he would announce a Belfast one. It was not to be.

Here’s fove Prince songs for you

FIVE SONGS BY PRINCE

1. Gold
2. Cream
3. Batdance
4. Raspberry Beret
5. Kiss

Tomorrow, is St George’s Day, so here’s a couple of charts for our English readers

FIVE SONGS BY ACTS FROM ENGLAND

1. Then Jerico – Big Area
2. Lightning Seeds – All I Want
3. Charli XCX – Boom Clap
4. The Cure – Friday I’m In Love
5. Stephanie Kirkham – Inappropriate

FIVE SONGS BY MUSICIANS CALLED GEORGE

1. Wham – Freedom
2. One Night Only – Say You Don’t Want It
3. George Harrison – Got My Mind Set On You
4. Culture Club – Karma Chameleon
5. George Ezra – Budapest

GLENTORAN 0-4 LINFIELD 19.4.2016

Having secured European football on Saturday, Linfield discovered what competition they would be playing in on Tuesday, as Crusaders win at Solitude condemned them to the UEFA Cup Final.

To take the Joleon Lescott approach, it was something we’d known for a long time. It wasn’t all bad news, as Linfield recorded their biggest league win at The Oval since 1933.

Going into the game, Linfield were the last team to beat Glentoran, 3-0 on 12th March. Since then, they’d won three and drawn one of their four games since. You could almost call them a form team.

Linfield managed to go 1-0 up when there was still daylight. Like on Saturday, it only took 3 minutes, and like on Saturday, Kirk Millar was involved. This time as assister rather than scorer. He could have been the scorer if he wanted to.

After gifting Linfield a goal last month with a poor kick out, Elliott Morris was at it again, hitting a free-kick low along the ground straight to Kirk Millar. Linfield supporters screamed for him to shoot, especially as there was a lot of the goal to aim for.

He elected to run with the ball and play it in to Andrew Waterworth. He got a bit of luck when an attempted Glentoran interception fell straight to Andrew Waterworth to fire home first time to put Linfield 1-0 up.

Linfield then dominated the opening moments. Ross Gaynor broke through but dragged his shot wide from a wide angle. If Linfield could get a second goal before the sky turned dark, it could potentially be a rout.

Having survived that period of Linfield pressure only 1-0 down, Glentoran came into the game, giving Linfield some nervous moments.

In truth, what Linfield had to deal with was speculative shots and crosses, defenders having to get in the way of things.

Gareth Deane, making his second successive start, his appearance in a stronger Linfield starting eleven, you would expect at least 9 to start the Irish Cup Final if fit, the biggest suggestion that he will be between the sticks on May 7th, having recovered from the finger injury suffered in the week after his appearance in the Quarter-Final against Cliftonville.

The height of Deane’s workload was making basic saves and catching crosses. Regardless of the difficulty of the task, it still needs to be done.

Stephen Lowry had a great chance to make it 2-0 when Glentoran tried to play offside at a free-kick, only for Lowry to be played onside, but was unable to take the chance.

Linfield got the second goal their play deserved when a headed clearance fell perfectly for Andrew Waterworth, to fire home a screamer from 25 yards.

He doesn’t usually score from that range, or even from outside the box. It was one of those nights.

Mark Haughey had Linfield’s next attacking moment, but his stab at goal was saved by Morris.

Linfield’s only moment of worry came when Jimmy Callacher and Matthew Clarke had a clash of heads on the stroke of half-time.

Clarke was unable to continue, substituted at half-time for Niall Quinn, but was fit enough to take a seat in the dugout, with an icepack for company.

Callacher was able to continue while sporting a bandage on his head, a badge of honour for a central defender.

In bygone days, even a 2-0 lead against Glentoran wouldn’t be enough to secure victory. The pessimist in me would be in fear of conceding a goal even if they had a throw-in in their own half. There was never that fear on Tuesday.

The best that Glentoran could offer was a header against the post. Even if it did go in, you got the feeling Linfield would have seen the game out or went on to win it 3-1.

It was Linfield who looked the most likely to score the third goal of the game. Paul Smyth broke away and fired just wide.

Like in recent games at Solitude, even when he didn’t have the ball, opposition defences were in fear of him, of what he can do when he gets it.

Linfield made it 3-0 when Glentoran’s offside trap failed, with Mark Haughey through on goal, and having enough time to decide wether to pass to Aaron Burns or score himself. He passed to Burns, on as a substitute, who made it 3-0.

Burns made it 4-0 when he bundled the ball home from a corner.

Linfield fans wanted five, but were more than happy to accept four.

The biggest roar of the night came as the Glentoran players left the pitch to boos from their own fans gathered at the tunnel. It was a beautiful sight and sound.

All they could offer for Linfield players leaving the pitch was chants of “CRUSADERS!! CRUSADERS!!!”

Their attempts at banter was as weak, uninspiring and devoid of ideas as their team.

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MAGAZINE ARCHIVE : SHOOT – 3.5.1980

The first tournament of the 1980s is approaching, Euro 80, and Shoot is attempting to do Ron Greenwood’s job for him by picking the England squad for this tournament.

Shoot gives a double page spread to this, with their selection, and the reasons for their selection.

While England’s players are heading to Italy, Ipswich Town’s players are heading to Hungary to appear in a film called Escape To Victory

In other news, Billy Humphries was considering making a comeback for Ards at the age of 42, while Aston Villa were keen on signing Mick Ferguson from Coventry.

In letters, Stephen Cochrane from Hartlepool writes in to suggest his local side will be a top flight club by 1987.

Scotland are also in international action, and Derek Johnstone uses his column to write about his hopes for an international. With Scotland not going to the European Championship, he can’t resist a dig at England by writing that this is how they must have felt sitting at home watching Scotland at the 1974 and 1978 World Cups.

Shoot interviews Manchester born pop star Andy Gibb about his love of Manchester United, saying that George Best was his hero. He supports United, but wants City to do well. In the interview, he says he doesn’t get to Old Trafford often, but visits Vicarage Road to see his local team Watford.

Gibb also reveals he has football matches in his local park with his three elder brothers Barry, Maurice and Robin (That’s the Bee Gees, by the way) who he describes as “Soccer mad”, which are videotaped, then they watch back when they get home.

West Germany captain Bernard Dietz gets a double page interview, where he states that England can win the competition. They were eliminated in the group stage while West Germany won the competition.

A possible future domestic opponent of Bernard Dietz is Liverpool midfielder Terry McDermott, who tells Shoot he is considering a move to a West German club.

Terry Venables uses his column to declare that players who do cynical fouls will never prosper in football.

As part of their build-up to Euro 80, Shoot looks at previous European Championships. This week, they look back at Euro 72.

In ads, Admiral take out a full page for their England kit and tracksuit range. One of the tracksuits is modelled by Trevor Francis. It’s unknown if it was purchased in Shepherd’s Bush.

Alan Hansen gets a full page profile where he reveals his favourite music is Billy Joel, and The Commodores, while his favourite other team is Manchester United.

In transfer news, Aston Villa manager Ron Saunders was fuming after Everton hijacked their bid to sign Dumbarton’s striker Graeme Sharp after they had agreed a fee with the Scottish club.

Shoot does a feature on Grimsby winger Mike Brolly, complete with a picture of him holding a brolly.

In other ads, there is an advert for a free Euro 80 sticker album, but not in Shoot, in two other publications – Roy Of The Rovers, and Tiger.

There is a poster of Celtic players and manager Billy McNeill celebrating winning the 1980 league title. They would soon look stupid as it was Aberdeen who claimed the trophy that season.

In international news, Bobby Robson is wanted by Barcelona to be their new manager. It would eventually take him 16 years to get the job. Meanwhile, one Spanish newspaper had a leftfield candidate for the post, Ian Paisley. It was a printing error as they got him confused with Liverpool manager Bob Paisley.

Andy Gray uses his column to suggest that there should be full-time referees in football.

The magazine ends on the back page with a poster of John Toshack in his Wales kit.

LINFIELD 3-0 COLERAINE 16.4.2016

After an absence of 725 days, Linfield fans returned to the South Stand. Unfortunately, they entered it in the same mood they last left it, deflated after a 2-0 defeat that saw their team miss out on the title.

It was still mathematically possible for Linfield to win the league at kick-off, but realistically, it wasn’t going to happen.

The team line-up was about suspensions and fear of suspensions, with Aaron Burns finishing a two game ban, David Healy starting one, as well as players being rested in order to avoid getting a ban for the Irish Cup Final.

Gareth Deane came in for Ross Glendinning in goal. The defence was unchanged, but it was futher up the pitch were the changes were obvious,a first start for Stephen Fallon, rare starts for Niall Quinn and David Kee, and Kirk Millar in the unfamiliar role of playing up front.

There was also the welcome sight of Ross Clarke being on the bench, having missed all of the season so far through injury.

Linfield supporters in the South Stand trying to work out what their new seat will be, though they would soon be working out which seats offer the best protection from the rain.

South Standers, notorious for their moaning, would have to wait for something to moan about in football terms.

Having survived shaky opening moments, Linfield scored with their first attack on 3 minutes, when Paul Smyth got space out the right to cross in for Kirk Millar to head home. Millar and Smyth, as well as Stephen Fallon were the focal point of all Linfield’s attacking play. Everytime they got the ball in Coleraine’s half, it felt like a goal would be seconds away.

Millar had Linfield’s next chance when he managed to get some space in the penalty area, but his shot hit the post and was smothered by Coleraine’s keeper just as Stephen Fallon was going to finish the rebound.

Matthew Clarke had to kick a header from a Coleraine corner off the line, it was the only attacking moments Coleraine offered in the first-half.

After not being able to react after Coleraine’s keeper dropped a cross, Jimmy Callacher headed home on 15 minutes to make it 2-0, meaning he had scored in both home games against Coleraine this season.

Linfield’s 3rd goal came from another header when a Coleraine player headed against his own post, and Kirk Millar fired home from close range.

At 2-0, there was always the chance that Coleraine could come out for the second-half sensing an early goal could spark a fightback, that was never going to happen at 3-0. The game was won.

In terms of the title race, it was win and hope for Linfield. They were winning, and had a glimmer of hope, as Crusaders were being held 0-0 at Glenavon.

Linfield looked like they were going to make it 4-0 when Niall Quinn set up Paul Smyth in the box but his shot was fired straight at the keeper.

The second-half was a non event. Linfield didn’t need to score and Coleraine didn’t look like scoring.

The next moment of note came when Ross Clarke came off the bench for his first appearance of the season, a season disrupted by injury.

He didn’t do a lot, but what he did he did well. When a team is 3-0 up and seeing out the game, there isn’t as much intensity in attack, and it can be hard to get involved in the game.

He almost set up a goal for Kirk Millar when he got past his man (after a bit of confusion when the referee waved play on after the linesman flagged for a foul by Clarke) and put in an inviting cross, only for Millar to head over, denying him a hat-trick.

Another sub of note was Gary Lavery making a first team debut.

Jimmy Callacher hit the crossbar as Linfield were unable to get a 4th goal.

The result at Mourneview didn’t go Linfield’s way as Crusaders got a 1-0 win which makes them 99% champions. Still, keep fighting to the end and make them win it, don’t hand it to them.

The result at Solitude did go Linfield’s way, as Cliftonville’s failure to win (they lost 2-0 to Glentoran) means Linfield have secured European football for next season.

Up next, is a trip to rejuvinated Glentoran on Tuesday evening. Hopefully, their mini revival will be over by Tuesday night.

For the first time in a long time, Linfield have options and strength in depth. There aren’t many players making up the numbers.

Jamie Mulgrew, Aaron Burns, Andrew Waterworth, Ross Gaynor and Guy Bates didn’t play a minute of action today, and weren’t missed, in an easy win over a side Linfield had struggled against in previous meetings this season.

Despite the result at Mourneview (which we had no control over), it wasn’t a bad day. Back in the South Stand and back in Europe next season.

Unfortunately, it looks like it will be on Thursday nights.

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PAUL HEATON AND JACQUI ABBOTT – LIVE AT ULSTER HALL 12.4.2016

The H and Claire of The Beautiful South, Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott returned to Belfast after two successful (The Limelight in June and Ulster Hall in October) gigs in 2014 as part of their latest tour.

Nearly ten years after The Beautiful South split up, Singer/Songwriter Heaton is now recording as part of a duo with Abbott, vocalist during their commercial peak during the late 1990s, who replaced original vocalist Brianna Corrigan, from Portstewart.

The story goes that Heaton heard Abbott singing at a party and asked her to join the band. It sounds like the rejected draft of Don’t You Want Me by Human League. It sounds like Don’t You Want Me by Human League if it was written by Paul Heaton and Dave Rotheray.

Reunited by social media of all things, they released an album and toured in 2014, and enjoyed it so much, they released another one and decided to tour it.

The crowd cheered when Heaton asked if they’d bought their new album. He said he’d be checking if they could back it up by singing along to their new songs.

The highlight of those new songs was the lead single from their new album, The Austerity Of Love.

They entered the stage, and the crowd were treated to some spectacular dad dancing from Paul Heaton, attempting The Robot during the opening song.

I’d previously seen them at The Limelight in 2014. I gave the gig at Ulster Hall a miss as it was only four months between gigs. I wish I had now.

I’m not usually a fan of Ulster Hall as a venue, but it was perfect for Heaton and Abbott.

As with their Limelight gig in 2014, the setlist through Heaton’s career with The Housemartins, The Beautiful South, and as a duo with Jacqui Abbott.

Despite focusing on his career, the songs that didn’t feature Abbott as a recording artist were easily reworked to include her as a live performer.

It is almost 30 years since Heaton first gigged in Belfast, with The Housemartins in 1986. It is a gig which Heaton commented was his favourite gig he has ever done, playing the opening song from that night, Anxious.

Not all of the retrospective was glorious, as he stated “what a miserable twat I used to be” when introducing Have Fun, a song not performed live for 18 years prior to this tour.

Heaton’s pre-gig routine is very different now from The Beautiful South’s heyday. Back then it was, in his words, getting pissed. Nowadays, it is watching Pointless in his hotel room, having a sleep, and watching Emmerdale while eating a packet of crisps, and feeling inadequate in comparision to some of the men who roam Emmerdale, but that performing live gives him a confidence boost.

Naturally, there were plenty of Beautiful South hits on the setlist, a Reggae version of A Little Time (Curiously, a song neither of them sang on. Abbott wasn’t in The Beautiful South when it was released in 1990, and Dave Hemingway sang the male lead), Prettiest Eyes (which Heaton says he wrote at the age of 32 about people in their early 50s, the age bracket he is in now), Don’t Marry Her, Old Red Eyes Is Back, Good As Gold and an uptempo version of Rotterdam

There was even a bluesy insturmental song, looking like it was going to sound like Livin On A Prayer by Bon Jovi, only to be a dancey uptempo version of Perfect Ten.

Perfect Ten would be in my Top Ten Beautiful South songs. If the version played live was the version that was released, it might well have been

My main memory of the song was buying the CD single when I was out for lunch during my work experience.

There was not one, but two encores, with Jacqui Abbott getting her now obligatory crowd photo for Twitter.

The show ended with You Keep It All In. Nothing at all was kept in during this performance.

Photo Album

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott Live At The Limelight June 2014

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott Live At The Limelight June 2014 Photo Album