By Neil Durham
WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHEN?: Saturday 17 December, last night of the tour
SETLIST: I Drove Her Away With My Tears; From Under The Covers; Too Much For One (Not Enough For Two); One Last Love Song; Everybody’s Talkin’; Old Red Eyes Is Back; A Good Day Is Hard To Find; A Little Time; The People Who Grinned Themselves Top Death; Five Get Over Excited; I’ll Sail This Ship Alone; Liars’ Bar; My Mother’s Womb; Me And The Farmer; Prettiest Eyes; Manchester; Heatongrad; Rotterdam; Song For Whoever; Think For A Minute; Happy Hour; Perfect 10; You Keep It All In; Caravan Of Love
36 years ago The Housemartins’ cover of Caravan Of Love was number 1 and it is the last song tonight and elevated brilliantly by an enthusiastic audience singalong.
- Read on for reasons including why Heaton and Abbott are in the Guinness Book Of World Records
Get well soon to Heaton’s singing partner Jacqui Abbott who is not well enough to appear here, and despite this absence and the rail strike, The 02 is packed for this last Saturday gig ahead of Christmas Eve.
Support act Billy Bragg reminisces about playing as Thursday night support at The Mitre pub around the corner from this venue at the south end of the Blackwall Tunnel under the Thames.
Later Heaton explains that The Housemartins played their too and Bragg covered their petrol money home to Hull because they had not attracted enough of an audience to pay for it themselves.
We 1st saw Bragg live at Portsmouth Guildhall in the 80s and his fine set is characterised by a lot of political banter in which he reveals he turns 65 on 20 December and urging his audience to support the trans/non binary community reflected in the tweaks to the lyrics of our favourite song of his, Sexuality.
We never saw The Housemartins live but we did catch The Beautiful South in 1989 at Aldershot West End Centre and more recently Heaton and Abbott were 1 of our highlights from this year’s Glastonbury Festival.
Calling your debut album London 0 Hull 4 may not necessarily endear you to a capital audience but that was 1986 and it appears all forgotten as he emerges to the strains of Maybe It’s Because I’m A Londoner.
The sound is occasionally off at the start of the set and Heaton looks concerned. His band is covering for the absent Abbott and Heaton delights in telling the crowd that they are in the Guinness Book Of Records as being the oldest male/female duo to have had a UK number 1 album.
Our companion remarks what a brilliant lyricist Heaton is and he also has an ear for a pop hook that has resulted in a massively underappreciated near 40-year career of hits.
However charttopper A Little Time is rather thrown under the bus here in a rock version that does much to obscure its charm.
Abbott’s absence means those male band members stepping into her shoes occasionally give a slightly odd lyrical interpretation to songs including the saucy Perfect 10 for example (sample lyric: ‘When he’s at my gate with a big fat 8, You wanna see the smile on my face.’)
Heaton shows just how much his audience means to him towards the end of this show when he signals to security that a crowd member is struggling and in need of help.
A few years ago we saw a pre-Christmas show by Madness at this venue which just felt a little too raucous and, although tonight’s crowd were singing along from the off and determined to have a good time, it was always good-natured, communal and lots of fun. Here’s to the next 40 years of hits.
- Main picture via Facebook courtesy Paul Heaton Tickets
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