Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott @ SEC Armadillo, Glasgow, 24 Nov

Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott play a magic mix of new and old songs and aren't afraid to play the classics from The Beautiful South and The Housemartins back catalogues

Live Review by Juliette Jones | 13 Dec 2017

If you weren't familiar with the two people on stage at the Armadillo tonight, you might think, especially if you were of a certain age, that Ron Dixon from Brookside has teamed up with Elizabeth Hurley's as yet unknown sister and formed a singing act. But everyone here is familiar with them: it's Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott from The Beautiful South with a braw backing band. The jaded gig-goer's nightmare, the gig in which the band don't play any of their old songs, is completely avoided tonight. There are a couple from new album Crooked Calypso right up front, but not to get them out of the way or anything: The Lord is a White Con and She Got the Garden are timely-themed singalongs. 

The Beautiful South's 1996 song Have Fun from Blue is the Colour is played, and the audience look round to see who's else is standing up to dance. It's a reminder that the South's tootling tunes often belied their sad lyrics: 'Have fun / And if you can't have fun / Have someone else's fun / 'Cause someone sure had mine'. As the concert goes on, Beautiful South and Housemartins songs are played, Paul Heaton does his 'I'm a little teapot' dance wearing a big green outdoors-y jacket. It's a cold evening alright, but he won't feel the benefit when he's outside.

The main surprise of the evening is a piper who appears near the end and toots out Flower of ScotlandOnce he's out of the way, there's more beloved songs from the back catalogue, and we're glad that Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott aren't too precious to lead with their new songs to the exclusion of older ones.

In a sense, these are at once songs for whoever and songs which feel somehow targeted to us personally: both popular as heck and feeling like darts aimed at us alone. This, certainly tonight, seems to account for the appeal of Heaton and Abbott. Familiarity breeds content, and things carry on up the railway station as the gig attendees spill out and bellow out their favourite South songs. In a gig where everything is more or less expected, there's the reminder that there can be that extra element that nobody quite plans for which makes it magic.