Support: Billy Bragg
Thetford Forest gigs rock. Zero hassle. Turn up. Park the car. Take note of car park name (Rabbit). Walk 5 minutes. Say hello to the cheery volunteers. Nip to the toilet (clean port-a-loos). Wander to the front of the arena. No pushing. No groans. No annoying stares. Why? Everyone is already where they want to be. Most are in place with smug looks on their faces sitting in deckchairs with picnics out, waterproofs on (5% chance of rain) and are happy as Larry. Donington this is not but it certainly is bloody well organised.
Having been driven to the venue by Mrs C we were also kindly provided with alcohol by her husband, Mr C. Ok so the alcohol in question was in a plastic Tesco water bottle filled with lukewarm white wine...but you know...beggars...choosers. First up on stage was Billy Bragg (bang on the advertised 7.30...I really do love this place). A grumpy, political and hysterically funny man...he is somewhat of a hero for us 40+ year old lefties. In truth I don't think the Thetford Forest crowd may agree 100% with all his political views (the mention of immigration was met with silence). This may not be his target audience but no matter, he was excellent and rightly heartily applauded (except for one boring heckler...definitely voted Brexit).
Bragg has a large repertoire and the between song banter is top notch. Indeed everything from Gary Barlow 'it was Tory night last night', the Suffragettes, him looking like Jeremy Corbyn, being shit at DIY, and Kirsty Maccoll, getting a mention. The latter of course during closer New England, which, as always, includes the extra verse for the musician taken far too young. A wonderful, heartening set from Bragg.
Paul Heaton. Lyrical genius. Writer of so many pop hits with lyrics full of edge and purpose (or 'wise, witty and weighty' as the Guardian says of the latest album). He, like Bragg, is a great fighter of workers' rights (amongst many other things) however he does it with a catchy as hell tune behind it. Funnily enough Gary Barlow also gets a mention from Heaton...'doesn't pay his taxes, then goes on Children in Need, then expects you to pay money that his taxes should have paid..'. You get the idea. Funny...but also very true.
Heaton and Abbott have been back together since 2014 and 3 successful albums later they are still very much going strong. In the four years since reuniting, and with songs such as I Gotta Praise and DIY, they have proven that they work so well together. Let's not forget the excellent band especially guitarist (and Paul's co writer), Jonny Lexus, who now seemingly has his own fan club. Their set lists divide between their own recent albums as well as the Beautiful South (One Last Love Song, I'll Sail This Ship Alone, Perfect 10 and many more) and the Housemartins (Sheep, Five Get Over Excited and of course Happy Hour). They really can do no wrong (Ok would love to have heard Heatongrad...Paul's theme tune...maybe next time).
The show really does whizz by and when the balloons (rather big bouncy ones) and confetti (hate that stuff) are released during the two deserved encores, 105 minutes (sorry Mr C I mean 107) have passed by in a flash. There has been much Dad dancing both on stage and in the crowd and there are many, many happy faces. You Keep It All In and Caravan of Love send us away in to the night avoiding the softer pine cones and looking forward to the next time.
This was my ninth Heaton gig in one form or another. He never lets you down. It really is wonderful that these two are together. Both are on top form and as Paul l says 'long may it continue...'.
Ticket Price: £33.50