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.