Support: Stornoway / The Devlin Brothers
You never know what a gig will be like. Will the artist be on form? Will they be up for it? Hell will they even turn up? Some shows though are home bankers. Never in doubt. 100% nailed on going to be good. Paul Heaton gigs always fall into this category. This was my first 'forest gig' so it helps when you go with seasoned attendees (they live close by). They knew the drill. Turn up a hour before show time. Walk straight to the front. Open the box of red wine. What's not to like...(well the box of red wine actually, can't stand the stuff). A perfect evening ahead...
Thankfully the weather stayed dry. Quite a miracle considering the June we have had. The many picnic fans there for a nice evening didn't need to worry. Picnic chairs, food and drinks all remained in one piece. The atmosphere was good, venue excellent, organisation spot on.
Paul and Jacqui came on stage at 9am on the dot. No divas here. Paul, forever the consummate professional, played the entire gig with one eye on the a tv screen at the side of the stage. On it was the football (Germany won on pens). Professional? God no. Heatonesque? Yes. Marvellous? Absolutely. To be fair when you know your audience is completely on your side you can pretty much get away with anything. It helps though when the songs (both old and new) are as good as those played tonight.
The sound at outdoor gigs can vary greatly. Here it was perfect right from the off with opening song Wives 1, 2 & 3 (admittedly we were right at the front, not sure what those at the back thought). Indeed the Beautiful South songs played sound better than ever. Housemartin songs ditto. The former involves more swaying, the latter more dancing. Both voices are exceptional...the dance moves need work though (Paul is a self confessed Dad dancer. Nothing wrong with that in my book). Best of all the new songs sound as good as anything else.
A set surprise tonight in the form of 29 year old I Can't Put My Finger On It a song Paul says he hasn't sung since the year it came out. The rest of the show is the perfect mix of old and new as shown in the last four songs of the main set, D.I.Y, Happy Hour, a reggaed up Perfect 10 and a pitch perfect Caravan of Love. They encore with an excellent version of a Little Time and You Keep It All In. All is good in the world.
The show flies by and when the balloons (bloody large ones) and confetti (still stuck in the throat) are released during a second encore of Heatongrad (finally Paul has a theme song after 30 years in the business) and early South track Woman in the Wall it seems that 105 minutes have passed in a flash. The crowd go home happy. We really couldn't have asked for more.
This was my eighth Heaton gig in one form or another. It's possible this was the best, although 2014's Shepherds Bush show was a huge welcome back, feel good gig. In the two years since then Paul and Jacqui have done anything but rest on their laurels. They have released two high quality, hugely successful albums with a third on the way. An impressive reunion. Paul asked the crowd if they had actually bought the latest record. Many had. He asked the same question in 2008 when I saw him in on a small stage at Oxegen festival in Ireland. I was only one of two that answered yes. Criminally there were only fifty people at that show. Here there were thousands. It's magnificent to see as lyrically Paul is nothing short of a genius...and he doesn’t half write a bloody decent tune. Jacqui has helped him find the bigger stage again and how they fill it so well. Long may they continue.
Ticket: July 2nd 2016
Ticket Price: £32.50