Paul Heaton - The Original Oak, Leeds - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Paul Heaton - The Original Oak, Leeds

by Clare Stemp Rating: Release Date:

"Welcome to my garden!"

With the barbecue smoke billowing, the temperature rising, and the beer flowing steadily into the (mostly) heavy guts of tattooed Yorkshire folk, this pub garden gig felt like a mini festival long before Paul Heaton had taken to the stage. His fans are a loyal bunch, the majority having followed him since his days in The Housemartins, and they poured into the venue with sweaty gusto. "I've been drinking all day", one lobster-skinned woman slurred as I sold her a poster (I was a merch-person for a bit, y'all), "I dunno what's going on". At least the poster would have reminded her later, with all of sixteen tour venues for her to choose from should she forget what day it was.

Today's Leeds gig was number fourteen of Heaton's Pedals and Beer Pumps tour. There were two key aims here: to travel eco-warrior style to each gig via bicycle; and to "save the English pub" by encouraging everyone to use their local a bit more. So far so good, then. First up was Paul's support act, a band fronted by an old school friend of his, Gus Devlin and The Resistance. Their brand of warming country-folk was well received, and despite being two men down they sported an impressive double bass and a solid set, despite the lack of, well, resistance. The 'tween song banter and witty lyrics soon demonstrated why Heaton had wanted Gus to accompany him - "Here's a cheerful song; it's about drowning" - and both musicians had a worldly quality, helped along by Tim the bassist's tweed outfit and unruly hair. The relaxed, yet colourfully distinct melodies calmed the pissheads down a little, and made a tasty salad starter for those wanting to get stuck in to the main.

The familiar chant of "Heeaatoooon!" commenced shortly before fans glimpsed first sight of Paul, clambering over some barbecue-related obstacles to reach the stage with bandmates in tow. Predictably overdressed for the heat in a blue jacket, he welcomed the audience with a grin, and the group launched into the spirited 'Mermaids and Slaves' - an unsuccessful single from his last album, The Cross Eyed Rambler, but a firm live favourite with fans. This was a wise choice, most singing along with beer in hand, spilling it along to the harmonica's lilt.

The set consisted of a mixture of Rambler tracks and new, untested songs from forthcoming album Acid Country, all of which gained a hearty reception. This was not only alcoholic judgement, as generally the new tracks were soulfully lively, the pace slowing down far less frequently than The Beautiful South's sometimes mawkish, ballad-speckled performances. The drum-fill laden 'Welcome to the South' was a particularly bouncy newborn, gurgling a little promise of a fresh outlook. Heaton paced about the stage throughout the eve, engaging the crowd with hearty gesticulation and interspersing songs with tour tales: being knocked off his bike at speed and "rescued by Gus' strong, loving arms"; the "count the roadkill" game, of which he refused to reveal the winner. Plus it seemed the surname chants had once had their use: "In the old days, they reminded me who I was, where I was and what I was supposed to be doing; I usually had no fucking idea".

Remarkably, the crowd were twice treated to surprises from Paul's past, The Housemartins' tracks 'Flag Day' and 'Build'. These were, predictably, the highlight of the evening for most, receiving delighted screams (more the mid-life crisis yell than the teen shriek) and rapturous applause. Flag Day's introduction of "this is an old song…" had not prepared anyone for the 80s-indie royal-basher, and this memory machine tactic may well encourage longstanding fans to follow his tours even more fervently than usual. The jaunty, harmonica-laden version of 'Build' had everyone hurling theselves about as much as possible before the wheezing set in, and was an energetic take on the original, Heaton's vocals even holding out for the yodel.

After a generous jumble of a set, the night was wrapped up with a triple dose of high - 'Everything Is Everything' , another fan favourite, 'Acid Country', a seven-minute-long "acceptance speech" for when he was "elected", and '(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais', a cover of The Clash's ska track. 'Everything Is Everything' flaunts Heaton's key skill, his lyrical ability, and sees him deliver his distinct social commentary on the throwaway, overhyped culture of apathy he has found himself in: "The butcher sells you pantihose/ The supermarket sells you land/ The newsreader likes to read the news but he's also in a band/ And feminism's fast asleep with a cock in either hand/ Everything is anything to anyone". If nothing else, these snippets of clarity are what make a live Heaton so affable, and he knows it. With a whimsical tale of the "shovel-woman in a nearby garden" waiting to kill him if he plays on too late, he exits the stage, sticky and complete. And the fans drink more, fall over, and leave the pub exchanging incoherent abuse with violent bouncers. Ah, the perfect summer evening at your local.


Mermaids and Slaves
Deckchair Collapsed
Life of a Cat
Old Radio
Flag Day
House Party
Ladder's Bottom Rung
Little Red Rooster
This House
Welcome To The South
Young Man's Game
Everything Is Everything


Acid Country
(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais - The Clash

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No way, baby doll!

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