Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott performing their free concert for NHS Staff and Care Workers at The Motorpoint Arena Nottingham on Thursday 14th October 2021

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

During the first Covid-19 lockdown, Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott were the very first artists to promise to say thank you to NHS Staff and Care Workers with three free concerts, and last night they made good on that promise as they took to the stage at The Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham.

For many in the crowd this was their first time at a live concert which just served to add to the excitement and as Heaton and Abbott came onto the stage without any fanfare, elaborate costumes and just a backdrop announcing who they were, the crowd were spellbound.

Their set contained a handful of songs from their latest album, Manchester Calling, along with a couple from 2015’s Wisdom, Laughter And Lines and 2017’s Crooked Calypso, but it was the covers of The Housemartins and The Beautiful South songs that were instantly recognisable and went down a treat.

Heaton has never been shy of nailing his political colours to the mast, and he remains unashamedly a socialist. His songs have always reflected this as he continues to prove that he is one of the finest songwriters of his generation; always telling a story. New songs If You Could See Your Faults, A Good Day Is Hard To Find and All Of My Friends were perfect illustrations of this.

Opening with another new song The Only Exercise I Get Is You, they followed up with The Beautiful South covers, Tonight I Fancy Myself and the tremendous Old Red Eyes Is Back. Standing behind their music stands, the songs simply flowed.

Abbott took centre stage for Rotterdam (Or Anywhere) and had the crowd singing along as she did with the amusing Don’t Marry Her. With her and Heaton’s voice in perfect unison, the crowd lapped up the likes of One Last Love Song, My Book, Dumb and a Song For Whoever. The argumentative A Little Time induced a sing along, as did a cover of The Housemartins Happy Hour and a reggae version of DIY.

Finishing the set with You Keep It All In, Heaton and Abbott had provided a thoroughly entertaining night of music. And when the crowd shouted for more they duly obliged with I’ll Sail This Ship Alone and the jaunty Perfect 10. Wanting to extend a perfect evening, they came back for a second encore which included the beautiful a capella version of Isley Jasper Isley’s Caravan Of Love which brought out the goose bumps.

Finishing with Good As Gold (Stupid As Mud), Heaton and Abbott took the time to say a huge thank you to the crowd. But on this performance it was the crowd who wanted to show their appreciation with their deafening applause, because a gig that offers a perfect ten is very rare. Last night was definitely an eleven plus.