Paul Heaton/Charlie and The Martyrs

Posted on April 6, 2011

It’s easy to forget how much fun it is going to live gigs in pubs, I really must make a point of ensuring I do this at least every couple months, it is something I enjoy immensely. Last night I was joined by Broughton friends Dave Evans and Nick Mabey and we headed off to The Joiners in Southampton to see Paul Heaton, the former Housemartins and Beautiful South frontman. I have followed Heaton’s career ever since 1986, so to see him playing live in a pub was something for a treat for me and a very enjoyable one at that.

Charlie and The Martyrs

An added bonus came our way, as supporting Heaton were the quite excellent emerging Midlands band called Charlie and The Martyrs. The female singer/songwriter Charlie Jones is sexy in an unassuming way, and backed by three excellent guitarists and a drummer she sang half a dozen or so instantly foot tapping indie/pop tracks with smart lyrics and excellent melodies that struck a note with audience who greeted them warmly. I will follow Charlie and The Martyrs with some interest and it will be interesting to see if they can break in to a market that is dominated by Simon Cowell inspired trash. I do hope success comes their way.

Heaton arrived on stage and it was immediately apparent that this was going to be a gig that featured him as a musician and as a part time stand up comedian. More often than not artists who pontificate between songs end up annoying their audience (see mega wankers Bono or Sting) with the shit coming out of their mouth, but Heaton is witty and comfortable with a small audience. This particular gig featured many of the country/indie/ballads from his recent albums The Cross Eyed Rambler and Acid Country, plus a few older Housemartins tracks and even a cover version of The Clash’s White Man in Hammersmith Palais. There was something for everyone who has followed Heaton for the last twenty years.

Paul Heaton

What has always appealed to me about the music Heaton plays is the lyrics he writes. The first song I really loved by The Housemartins in 1986 was Think For A Minute, a sad and poignant ballad about the depressing state of northern towns during Thatchers reign. The opening verse was a brilliant summary of the era and struggles working class people were facing at that time.

Somethings going on, changes taking place,
Children smiling in the street have gone without a trace,
This street used to make me laugh, it used to make me smile,
Now it seems that everyone is walking single file.”

After The Housemartins, Heaton formed The Beautiful South and many people missed a trick by assuming that he had gone mainstream because of the popularity of the band, ironically, across middle England. However catchy and witty singles were backed by albums that tackled dark subjects such as alcohol abuse, domestic violence and bitter relationship break ups. Since going solo, Heaton has produced a mixture of love songs, poignant ballads and rants against the ruling classes. In Little Red Rooster there is a classic line that will hit home to a lot of friends my age that goes “Listen up you middle aged or slightly older men, if they look young to you my friend, you sure look old to them”. Great line and the same song features another superb, this time, romantic line “What should I compare you to, the sun on winters day, a Tulip standing brightly, when all around is grey”. Nick that line and put it in to a Christmas/Birthday card lads and you will be on a winner.

My favourite Heaton track was saved to last. Acid Country (listen here) is an absolutely brilliant song that goes from a quirky English ditty about Cider, Cricket  and Cornish pasties before having a bit of a dig at ageing fashions (“The Mods are slowly balding, resigning themselves to, a scooter slowly rusting and a fading sixty two, the last of the Mohican’s, pretending punk and dead, regurgitating everything, their Mum and Dad once said”) and slowly descending in to an operatic rant against the greedy ruling classes “Let Aristocrats and Ruling class, drown while trying to cross their moat, or impale themselves on rusty nail or spoke.”

If you like good music with excellent lyrics, go and watch Paul Heaton, or at least buy his albums, it really is tremendous stuff from a man who has never lost his soul. Try Charlie and The Martyrs too, they are great fun.

Read Nick’s view here

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