Paul Heaton: The Plug, Sheffield

There is a few things that Paul Heaton doesn’t trade in, despite thirty years of fronting bands including The Beautiful South and The Housemartins.

Firstly, the music he and his band make isn’t a prompt for the real music in your head. At no point is there a ‘striped down’ acoustic rendition or a tune that could have been better performed by the crowd. Paul (or “HEE-TERRN!”) sings as well as he did way back when ‘Caravan Of Love’ topped the pops and his band can make you dance. Sorry Liam Gallagher, Noel hard feeling but Paul is still on fine form. The three piece flanking him make a brilliantly tight clatter ranging from the pensive reverb on Beautiful South’s ‘Blackbird On The Wire’ to the white funk of Housemartins’ ‘We’re Not Deep’, as well as supplying frequent hot-buttered harmonies.

What Paul Heaton also doesn’t do is make it about him. I mean, everyone’s here for him, and he gets into a bit of chat about fatherhood and his political views (using a footie tribes analogy no less) but mostly he seems at ease with his music and his, mostly older, audience. Where else would you see a bespectacled father of three air-wank for a good half-minute? Pretending to be the English Defence League’s Tommy Robinson?! That’s not to mention all the campy/soulful, emotive/I’m-a-little-teapot gestures that pepper his stage show. He is not cool. Best of all, there’s a choice selection of his best work. From his indie pop beginnings with the Housemartins through to MOR juggernaut The Beautiful South and recent solo material, there’s singalongs, puts downs and put ons, hit after hit. ‘Caravan of Love’ might as well be a hymn for its sombre gravity, ‘Old Red Eye Is Back’ is ‘BEAUTIFUL’ shouts a fan. Stevie Wonder’s ‘Place In The Sun’ meanwhile is a glorious indication of Paul’s musical urges.

Then, towards the end Paul walks off unexpectedly. After a brief wait, he is publicly given a gift in recognition of his support for the unions down the years, hugs are had and then we’re straight to a closing salvo of tracks to finish. All of which is pretty matter-of-fact, from a man who has to read his own lyrics from a music stand. You imagine he’s had a lifetime of the momentous and day-to-day.


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