Paul Heaton The 8th Review
A rare summer evening at St Paul’s square, Birmingham last night. We had arrived at St Paul’s Church to watch “Paul Heaton Presents…The 8th.” which is billed as a “soul opera” and laden with songs from the former frontman of The Housemartins and The Beautiful South.
We’d arrived a little early, so headed to the nearest pub for some refreshments before the show. Who did we see casually sat outside sipping at a pint(s) with a couple of friends? It’s PAUL HEATON!
Whilst tempted to do the usual fan thing by going over and interrupting him for a handshake and photo. I opted to leave the guy alone as he relaxed in the sun and enjoyed his pre-show beer(s) so soon after completing his mammoth 2,500 mile cycle tour.
Back to the show – Act I
Having read other reviews on The 8th I had a the basic understanding of what to expect. Although I’m sceptical about reviewers because they are generally not punters who have paid for their own ticket and are assigned to be there, and not choosing to do so. I’m glad I purchased the more expensive tickets as we were just three rows from the front.
First off, it had to said that the venue – in a church was perfect for this show. It was intimate and helped create the sense of an ‘event’ from the usual run-of-the mill venues. Hopefully this reflected back onto the performers as they entered the church by walking down the aisle dressed in their funeral black suits like something from a Brit flick gangster film.
In a nutshell the show was to take us on musical journey through the seven deadly sins before concluded with a new 8th sin. Each sin had its own song which was sung by a different singer. None of them which I knew, apart from Heaton who unsurprisingly sang the 8th sin and other former Beautiful South member Jacqui Abbott – but more on her later!
The Hollywood Actor
Each sin was rapturously, intertwined with outbursts of damnation from actor Reg E Cathey was mesmerising with his enthusiastic performance throughout and was he a credit to the show. Perhaps being performed in a church added an extra atmospheric angle to his convictions. Every performer stepped up to the imposing gold encrusted, eagle adorned podium and impeccably belted out a polished performance of each of Heaton’s songs. Best of which was from Jacqui Abbott who provided a gentle reminder of just how great her voice is, as was Heaton who sang the last 8th song on Gossip with gusto.
Wrath and Pride
Because there was no sufficient gaps between each song only a few people in the audience clapped after each song finished. The performers may of thought we were unappreciative. Hopefully the standing ovation made up for this at the end.
The 8th is not for everybody. Some sections of the audience did become a little restless at times. Having known beforehand what the show structure was based around did make it more digestible for me. It really comes down to what you want out of your entertainment. I went with an open mind, enjoyed something new and thought provoking, different from the usual run-of-the-mill. If I wanted something mundane I would have popped around to the Hippodrome to watch Dirty Dancing. It would of been nice to hear more singing from Heaton himself, but I’m guessing this was not the time or place for this conceptual soul opera.
The 8th Performers
Jonny Lexus, Pete Marshall, Jonny Wright (band)
All the sinners gave stirling performances with the exception of local lad Wayne Gidden who really notched it up and made me want to leap out of my church pew. His voice was outstanding and the song LUST fitted perfectly for him. Watch Wayne’s performance from last years Manchester International Festival.
Greatest Hits Set – Act II
After a 20 minute interval the second part of the show commences with crowd pleasers which audience is more comfortable with – and it showed. The confused atmosphere had changed in the room and we are treated to performances of some of Heaton’s back catalogue from the Beautiful South and the Housemartins greatest hits. Most of which were sung by the same bunch of performers from Act I, credit to them they did manage to put their own stamp on those classic songs. It must be a difficult crowd to please as most of them have really come to see and hear Heaton.
Highlights for me were hearing a couple of new Paul Heaton songs, especially enjoyed the Spanish themed song which is grower from the off. Heaton and Jacqui Abbott singing together could be a great show in its own right. All interspersed with a splattering of humorous anecdotes from Heaton’s past, present and future.
This section of the show seemed to go by all too fast and it’s a shame the show was running late because we had to miss the last couple of songs to make our last train back home.
Heaton said it aptly himself, “he still writes hit songs, they just aren’t hits!”. Most fans would agree, hearing HIM sing more of those songs on the night would of been a good thing too.