An anticipated visit by the former Beautiful South members has the Liverpool Phil packed to the rafters and Getintothis’ Martin Waters manages to squeeze into a gig that was definitely not to be missed.
From early on it was clear that the Philharmonic crowd was determined to have a good time. Whether this was down to the anticipation of a couple of Beautiful South classics or the extra time spent at the bar due to a start later than scheduled wasn’t really clear, but from the off the place was jumping.
Before the arrival of the main event, however, it was the turn of support band Trudy, one of the groups shortlisted for this year’s GIT Award. Now here’s where the delayed start had the wrong effect in that when they belted out their first number, the place was less than half full, most patrons deciding they may as well stay in the bar. That was bad enough and they earnestly played through their set, but from my standard photographer’s position at the back of the hall I could see row after row of people getting up and making their way back to the bar – they didn’t even wait for a break between songs, they gave the lads two minutes, decided it wasn’t for them and left. For any performer, that has got to be disheartening.
Trudy didn’t do anything wrong, they were their usual hard working self, they just didn’t seem the best fit for the demographic or for the venue. With the wide open Phil stage set for Heaton, Abbott and a full backing band, the three of them squeezed in at the front seemed a tad lost, as did their performance. There’s a lot of good things to come from Trudy but with this venue and this audience, this wasn’t one of them.
By the time Trudy had packed up the well refreshed missing audience had returned, including a certain Johnny Vegas seated in the box behind me. The level of anticipation was high and the audience were clearly up for a good time and perhaps hoping for a few of the classics from the South. They weren’t to be disappointed.
Heaton takes to the stage looking like he shouldn’t really be there and he’s wandered on to test the mics, but as he launches into Wives 1, 2 & 3 from the latest release Wisdom, Laughter and Lines that unmistakeable voice kicks in and the night really begins. Whereas most crowds don’t hit their stride until midway through a gig, the Phil were already up and dancing in their seats by the time Jacqui Abbott joined Heaton on stage for song number two.
Of all the female vocalists who seemed to rotate through The Beautiful South – Briana Corrigan, Alison Wheeler and Abbott herself – Abbott who was only actually around for 3 albums, always felt the best fit. Maybe that’s due to those three albums garnering the classic Rotterdam, Don’t Marry Her, Perfect 10 and the cover of Everybody’s Talking. Heaton and the ‘lass from the glass’ (Abbott is from St Helens) seem a perfect match.
Only the latter song isn’t covered here tonight, and every Beautiful South tune is met with huge cheers. Perhaps surprisingly, Happy Hour, Five Get Over Excited, Anxious and even Caravan of Love from the Housemartin days also get an airing, the set list reading like a very best of album listing. And that is exactly what the crowd want. Of all the gigs I’ve shot over the past 12 months, this has to be up there as one of the most fun. Heaton and Abbott haven’t just turned up to go through the motions and rehash some old tunes, they seem to relish trawling through the back catalogue and you get the feeling they are enjoying themselves as much as the crowd.
I can’t imagine the Phil has seen a sight like this for a while, where else could you see Johnny Vegas dancing away. As gigs go, Heaton and Abbott pulled off a perfect 10 for atmosphere alone.
Maybe the final word should be left to Johnny Vegas who clearly enjoyed the night as much as the rest of us.
— Johnny Vegas (@JohnnyVegasReal) March 26, 2016
Pictures by Getintothis’ Martin Waters.