Paul Heaton was in celebratory mood in Auntie Annie’s last nightI HAVE a confession to make: Paul Heaton is sort of family to me.
The original female singer with The Beautiful South, Brianna Corrigan, she of ‘A Little Time’ fame, is my first cousin.
I have vivid memories of sharing a taxi with her after a gig in the Ulster Hall. It was my one and only experience of virtual Beatlemania. “But it's only me!” she exclaimed
The fan profile may have changed, and the space become somewhat more intimate, but Heaton remains the master of both lyricism and cynicism that fired both The Housemartins and The Beautiful South.
Sidling onto stage dressed in a tracksuit top and looking like a still useful, but ageing, midfield dynamo, he led his band through tracks from his new album, the aptly titled Acid Country.
For, indeed, his new direction is the American South, typified by songs such as ‘Old Radio’, dedicated to the most un-American sounding “Kev”.
There has always been something of the lay preacher about Heaton, and he has the sweetest of voices to sugar the socialist realism pill, as evidenced by the moving ‘This House’.
But tonight he was in a mood to be celebratory.
Old Housemartins tracks surfaced, such as the rapturously received ‘Build’. Indeed, his solo career can be seen as a way of rediscovering his old band.
He also proved to be a connoisseur of old Belfast pubs, which he talked about with the relish of the man who has given up golf discussing the Ryder Cup.