Review - Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott First Direct Arena Leeds

The fact that, for many members of the audience  at Leeds Arena listening to Paul Heaton and  Jacqui Abbott was probably the first time at a live gig for almost two-years made it all the more special.

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott. Getty Images
Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott. Getty Images

Although, obviously not of their doing, they apologised to fans for the rescheduling and praised the NHS and other workers for their dedication during the pandemic.

When they came on, as we’ve come to expect, there was no fanfare to announce them except for the strains of On Ilkley More Baht ‘At which were taken up by the enthusiastic crowd, and a banner at the back with their names on.

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Heaton and Abbott resisted the obvious temptation to just belt out their hits as a tribute to long ago glory days.

Even the most familiar Beautiful South songs were given a makeover and, while retaining the essence of what made them great, kept them fresh and alive for the 21st century and a new generation of fans.

The set encompassed the very best of the Housemartins and the Beautiful South back catalogue with a sprinkling of material from the duo’s three solo albums 2015’s Wisdom, Laughter And Lines, 2017’s Crooked Calypso and last year’s Manchester Calling which earned them a number one album slot, an accolade I don’t think Heaton has quite got over yet.

The set kicked off with The Only Exercise I Get is You from the new album, followed by Beautiful South covers Tonight I Fancy Myself and Old Red Eyes is Back.

Each song was received with thunderous applause and the night just got better and better as Heaton and Abbott worked together to give the crowd what they wanted - a hugely entertaining night of music, song and magic.

Heaton’s lyrics are pure poetry with clever lyrics and bittersweet observations, f You Could See Your Faults, a perfect example. He doesn’t shy away from unpleasant subject matter and gives the audience something to think about.

.Most of those at the Leeds Arena will have grown up with the music of the Housemartins and Beautiful South and we all have our favourites for whatever reason.

Mine is Rotterdam (Or Anywhere), from the Beautiful South’s 1996 Album Blue Is the Colour.

My daughter, now 28, remembers me singing it to her when she was a toddler in the car and we always share a special moment when it is played. Abbott’s voice as lovely now as it was then.

They finished off the set with You Keep it All In but everyone knew they would be back and so they were with two encores.

The first with I’ll Sail This Ship Alone and Perfect 10, the second with Good as Gold (Stupid as Mud) and a tear-jerking a capella rendition of Isley Jasper Isley’s Caravan Of Love to round off a perfect evening.