Manchester Bridgewater Hall

Credibility and career-plans, you'll understand, mean nothing to Mr [B]McAloon[/B]....

There's no new product to promote. Prefab Sprout have only released one new album in the last ten years, 1997's 'Andromeda Heights', and the last time Paddy McAloon charted he was writing for Jimmy Nail. Credibility and career-plans, you'll understand, mean nothing to Mr McAloon.

He's one of the old school, a craftsman. His are complex, delicate, unfashionable pop songs that yield great things the harder you listen. Which probably explains why we're sitting in the acoustically amazing, if sterile, Bridgewater Hall. Without Paddy, centre-stage, merrily deflecting remarks about his luxurious beard it would all be terribly tight-arsed. As it is, people actually shout out requests. Crazy.

That Paddy includes 'Cars And Girls' (subtlety itself) and 'Cowboy Dreams' (absolutely trite, a hit for 'wor Jimmy) in the same set is, endearingly perverse. But over 30 songs (plus intermission) there are frustrating moments amid the greatness. Despite this four-piece's obvious empathy and skill, certain songs, like 'Carnival 2000', sound undernourished, stripped of their studio trickery.

There are no new songs tonight, either, though Paddy's theme to ITV's Where The Heart Is is coming out next month. The grand, Spector-ish finale, 'A Prisoner Of The Past', isn't some knowing farewell. Thankfully. Paddy's one of pop's true eccentrics, and still, you suspect, capable of anything.

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