Paul and Jacqui. They sound like a nice couple who live round the corner in suburbia. You don’t see them often, he wants to do DIY. You spend a little time with them occasionally, indeed they seem as good as gold, yet they keep themselves to themselves and they keep it all in.
Paul Heaton was known as PD Heaton in his younger days of being a pop star. The days when it was cool to have that element of mystery. To be different. Not many pop stars sacrificed their christian names for their initials to identify themselves. For the men, it is a slim list comprising the likes of BA Robertson, FR David, LL Cool J and MC Hammer. PD was part of an exclusive club, characters them all.
Yet times have moved on. PD is now just plain old Paul, no pretence, just your average guy and no longer with the red eyes. Yet he still has the appearance of being the boy in the sixth form, still wearing his hoodie, tired jeans and white trainers, with a pencil case not far away. Only now he has to remove the black rimmed glasses a little more than before to wipe his perspiring brow.
On stage with him, the indomitable Jacqui Abbott, his singing partner of many moons. All long hair and long legs and still having the look that gives the sixth form boy teenage fantasies.
PD went solo for a while but no longer does he sail his ship alone, and he is all the better for having her back on board. He seemed at ease, sharp and witty, harking back to his first gig in Hammersmith 32 years ago and then within moments introducing the band members by the name of a celebrity from “I’m a Celebrity” whom they had drawn in the ‘band’ sweepstake. For Jacqui, read Dennis Wise, an unlikely alliance if ever there was one.
PD remains a real character, a consummate performer who transcends ages and boy can he still sing. So can she.
They went through their full repertoire, just as the crowd would have hoped for. The distinctive early eighties sound of The Housemartins, all quick, fast-paced nuggety pop songs such as ‘Five Get Over Excited’, ‘Sheep’ and ‘Me and the Farmer’ that made the audience want to jump around, to the more mellow, melodic classic pop songs of the late 80’s and 90’s in their Beautiful South days. So many hits, one after the other, it was like a rollercoaster and so easy to forget just how many they recorded. Songs about love, songs about lost love, songs about life. They have played them before and they will play them again. They were in London town last night, but it could just as easily have been Rotterdam, or Liverpool or Rome.
Then to the modern day. Their latest offering ‘Crooked Calypso’ is a bouncy album with catchy numbers that are easy to identify with. An album second only to Lana del Rey in the charts as PD advised the audience. She won it on downloads he said. Hardly surprising he ruefully acknowledged as he gauged the age of his audience.
The audience, oh yes, always a tell-tale sign of the era and age of the performer. PD’s career has lasted decades and the audience reflected his ongoing popularity. A big night out and indeed possibly a rare night out for many of the forty-somethings, fifty-somethings and sixty-somethings in the house. It must have felt like happy hour again to so many, especially Jennifer, Alison, Philippa and Sue, oh and Deborah and Annabel too. Not forgetting of course, Shirley, the other Deborah, Julie and Jane.
It took them a while to get going, as they swayed in their seats, yet one by one they rose to the occasion. By the final encore, they were all on the their feet, standing up and joining the caravan of love.
A fitting finale to a couple who have provided ‘pop’ to a generation and continue to do so. Part of the rich tapestry of British pop music, part of our history.
The only remaining question was how would the audience score it. Surely a perfect ten ?