Review - Rock: Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbot, The Academy
“We have such a laugh when we come to your city”, beams Paul Heaton, former singer of The Beautiful South and The Housemartins. Despite leaving his drinking days well behind him, Heaton looks like the kind of man who'd be equally at home down the pub or at a football match as shuffling around a stage.
Donkeys years before Guy Garvey of Elbow, Jimi Goodwin of Doves, Richard Hawley and even Pulp's Jarvis Cocker were peddling their own musical variations on being a working class Northern English male, Paul Heaton was topping the charts with his wry slices of everyday life. Norman Cook proceeded to conquer the world as Fatboy Slim, but Heaton quietly notched up 15 million sales during a career of remarkable stealth and success.
For this sell out Dublin date, Heaton performs with a full band including a drummer who for some reason hangs a Shelbourne FC pennant on his kit. The charismatic singer and his band certainly aren't just trading on past glories. Heaton is finally reunited with Jacqui Abbott, the singer who replaced Briana Corrigan as his female foil in The Beautiful South.
Without any fanfare or fuss, their comeback album has become an unexpected hit. What Have We Become charted at number three in the UK just behind Coldplay and the posthumous Michael Jackson album. Consequently, Heaton is in sparkling form, although he humorously notes that the album only charted at number 23 in Ireland.
Sensibly mixing old favourites with new material that sounds like an assured amalgamation of both his bands, the Academy soon turns into a giant singsong. Abbot delivers a fine version of ‘Dream A Little Dream for Me' and gets her own football chant in appreciation.
One of Abbott's signature songs, ‘Don't Marry Her' is a very pleasant stroll down memory lane. Heaton has a great skit with two paintings onstage which he claims to have created, alleging one of them is Louis Walsh. It looks absolutely nothing like the Irish pop Svengali.
When it comes to the business end of encore set, they pull two evergreen classics out of the bag. ‘Happy Hour' sounds sensational after all these years and causes a stampede of delirious Saturday night happiness.
‘Caravan of Love' is a rousing parting glass and one of Heaton's best known moments that was pipped at the post to be a Christmas number one. The whole band gather at the front of the stage and a capacity crowd bellow their hearts and lungs out.
“Thanks for your support over the years,” Heaton says warmly.
“And thanks for the letters saying ‘Get Jacqui back you useless bastard,'” he adds.