Monday, September 27, 2010

Paul Heaton / Liam Frost @ The Glee Club, Sunday 26th September 2010

From the Housemartins to The Beautiful South and now on to his own solo stuff Paul Heaton has quietly built up a formidable back catalogue of real lyrical gems. And, despite the passing of time, that voice of his, pure choirboy (okay, maybe a choirboy who’s had the odd cheeky ciggie and more than a pint or two of mild), is still well and truly intact. So it’s not surprising that the venue tonight (a trifle modest for someone who’s sold millions of records perhaps, but certainly a giant leap from the places he’s recently been playing on his ‘Pub Tour’) is pretty rammed in time for opener Liam Frost.

Liam’s a fine singer songwriter with that ‘legendary’ Manc wit providing a nice counter balance to the serious and introspective material with little comic asides about the problems of sweating onstage and Tesco’s Hoisin Duck wraps (best avoided it appears). Tonight he played solo but it seems he has a band too and, even more impressively, he’s recently done a duet with Martha Wainwright. Sadly she wasn’t here tonight though...maybe she’d eaten a Hoisin wrap?

On to the main event then, Mr Paul Heaton esq. and his band (The Sound of Paul Heaton I believe they’re called...see what he did there eh?). Coming onstage wearing one of those waterproof tops that he seems to love I couldn’t help noticing that the security tag (you know, those big white plastic things that leave a huge great hole in everything when the assistant tries in vain to remove it by whacking it against the counter) was still attached. Whether he’d done a cheeky spot of shoplifting earlier that day still remains a mystery, but he did disappear after a couple of tracks to get changed out of the offending item after “seeing a security guard that chased me through the Bull Ring”.

Aside from lifting sports casual clothing he seemed in fine form, vocally and personally. I think it’s fair to say that he’s had issues in the past (notably with the demon drink) but on more than one occasion he commented on being the happiest he’d ever been right now. He even revealed that he’d hooked up with Stan (ex-Housemartin) the night before and they’d been discussing those ongoing rumours about a Housemartins reunion...let’s put it this way, I wouldn’t hold your breath. Personally I don’t think it’s needed either. Tonight he performed a number of Housemartin’s tracks with his current band and they managed to nail those harmonies pretty well with both ‘Build’ and ‘Me and the Farmer’ neatly recapturing the spirit and feel of the 80’s originals. What was really striking tonight though was how well the material from Paul’s new album ‘Acid Country’ (which formed a good third of the setlist) came across and went down with the Heaton-ites. ‘Life of a Cat’ in particular featuring a frankly stunning vocal performance, hitting the high notes almost seemed as effortless as the life of the creature in question.

Chatty and relaxed throughout the set, a moronic heckler was swiftly and smoothly despatched. I don’t know what the guys problem was...aside from being an asshole (he was pushing and shoving people too...fine at a death metal gig but just not cricket on a Sunday evening at the Glee Club). I think he wanted Paul to play a particular track (Whaddya think this is fella? A karaoke night? Jeez...) but Paul, quite rightly, wasn’t having any of it and the hapless individual ambled off into the night. “I think I did us all a favour there” quipped Paul. Yep.

After an encore that included a spirited rendition of the Clash’s ‘White Man In Hammersmith Palais’ the set finally ended in fine style with ‘God Bless Texas’, a scathing attack on George W and his mates from Paul’s previous solo album ‘The Cross Eyed Rambler’. As the crowd enthusiastically sang, clapped and stomped along to the chorus the band, one by one, left the stage, leaving Paul sitting and thumping away at the drums looking like the kitten that’s got the cream. Hmmmm...maybe that ‘Life of a Cat’ ain’t so far away now eh?


Welcome to the South / Mermaids and Slaves / This House / The Old Radio / Build / We’re Not Deep / Life of a Cat / Place in the Sun / Little Red Rooster / Ladders Bottom Rung / Deckchair / Acid Country / Young man’s Game

Encore # 1

White Man in Hammersmith Palais / Me and the Farmer

Encore # 2

God Bless Texas

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