Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott perform at The Royal Concert Hall Nottingham on Tuesday 29th March 2016

Images and Review Kevin Cooper

Still looking not too dissimilar to a college professor, Paul Heaton could hardly look less like a pop star.  But despite this it is difficult to dispute the fact that he has been one of British pop’s routinely underrated figures of the last three decades.

Having been reunited with Jacqui Abbott, his foil from The Beautiful South, the pair are back on tour to promote their latest album Wisdom, Laughter And Lines and they did not disappoint a packed audience at The Royal Concert Hall last night.

Starting the evening with new song Wives 1, 2 And 3, which was both sharp and fun, it set the benchmark for the rest of the night.  Another album track The Horse And Groom immediately adhered itself to the fans with its electric guitars and with edgy vocals from Heaton, but it was their single The Austerity Of Love with its borrowed riff from The Harry J All Stars Liquidator, that had this crowd on their feet.

With both Heaton and Abbott standing behind musical stands, it was as though they were conducting a mass choir as they belted out some of the oldies. Without doubt Heaton is a man who wears his lyrical beauty on his sleeve, but then when you put the delightful voice of Abbott in to the mix, well the evening was just perfect.  The gorgeously melodic Rotterdam (Or Anywhere) was simply a feast for the ears.

Some Beautiful South songs were given an airing, such as Have Fun, Prettiest Eyes and Old Red Eyes Is Back, whilst Five Get Over Excited and Anxious from Heaton’s Housemartin days were revisited.  Abbott, co-fronting a very tight band, was vivacious and full voiced on a reggae version of DIY, before they launched into a joyously infectious Happy Hour.

Finishing the main set with a funky bass driven Perfect 10, the band left the stage for the first time after a stunning a cappella version of The Housemartin’s classic Caravan Of Love, which had the audience still singing long after the stage was empty.

Back for a reggae tinged A Little Time, before giant balloons were launched into the audience as the words to Don’t Marry Her were changed to their rather naughtier original version.  Then the evening was brought to a close with You Keep It All In.

Heaton and Abbott are the most compelling when performing live, and last night was no exception.  A gig that offers a perfect ten is very rare.  This was definitely an eleven plus.