Suck in the belly and stretch that jowl: it’s the office Christmas party everyone’s invited to. There’s always plenty of good cheer, seasonal or otherwise, when ho-ho-Heato’s about. Outside, the touts can’t give away their remaining tickets. Inside, it’s 1995. Old Red Eyes ? surprise, surprise ? is back again.
Now more than ever resembling a sack of spuds trapped inside a designer kagoul, there’s still much to admire about Paul Heaton, the pisshead’s Phillip Larkin, and his heroically glum troupe – their longevity, for starters, and their uniformly brilliant songs only snobs profess to hate. And though The Beautiful South’s grimy northern star might finally be in the descendent – new album ‘Blue Is The Colour’ sounded more like a tired call for last orders, this traditional Yuletide tour isn’t completely sold out – there’s plainly life in their frontman who looks and dances increasingly like the Hoffmeister Bear.
The recent departure of vocalist and superbly dry foil Jacqui Abbott (“we miss her as much as you do,” reveals Heaton) has rendered the South a spectacle of saggy blokeishness, but his rich velvet shrill easily compensates on ‘Rotterdam’ and ‘You Can Call Me Leisure’. And as they ease us gently through the new, unfamiliar material into such magnificent Mondeo Man anthems as ‘You Keep It All In’ and ‘Song For Whoever’, it’s clear that, though they’ve rarely been beautiful, they still deserve to be treasured.