Grand Opera House
The Beautiful South have always been, and remain one of my favourite bands, through various lineup changes, trials and tribulations.
The driving force of the band was always Paul Heaton, and so it was with some trepidation that I ventured along to see The South, a version of The Beautiful South without Heaton, which features founding member Dave Hemingway, most recent Beautiful South female vocalist Alison Wheeler and a full band.
Support act Tristan Mackay opened the show. Mackay may pull some ludicrous faces while singing but his material is fantastic.
I enjoyed his heartfelt bluesy songs so much that I went to buy a copy of his debut album Out Along The Wire during the interval, definitely worth a look.
During the interval I think I ruined the night of the lady sitting next to us, who didn’t realise Paul Heaton and Jacqueline Abbot wouldn’t be performing. But by the end she had a great time, and barely noticed.
Co-lead singer Dave Hemingway prowled onto the stage looking like Liam Gallagher’s dad, all anorak and swagger, hood up marching about the stage like the king of the world. The band launched into a good hour and a half of Beautiful South classics punctuated by a couple of new songs.
Leading lady Alison Wheeler brings the sex appeal, belting out these very familiar songs as though she were the original singer, combining with Hemingway to make an interesting vocal dynamic.
To me, Hemingway was always the ‘third singer’, and it is telling that here that the songs which suited his voice better were the new tracks, written for this lineup (Pigeonhole in particular), while Wheeler carried the heavy lifting on several others.
They did a great job of entertaining an almost full Grand Opera House, creating a relaxed atmosphere, encouraging people to get up and dance, and promising to pop into the bar after the show for a chat and a pint.
You don’t get that from these modern pop bands!
I had a much better time than I was expecting, and this morning ordered a copy of The South album .
My only complaint is that the band really do miss Heaton’s voice. His world weary, cutting tones are perfect for the earlier material.
However I should point out that were The South not carrying the baggage of no longer being ‘Beautiful’, they fit the mould of what I want in music.
A show full of sharp tunes, cracking musicians, and a rollicking good time.