Formed in 1988, The Beautiful South was a household name, you don’t meet anyone these days who've never heard of the string of classic hits such as ‘Old Red Eyes is Back’, ‘Rotterdam’, ‘Perfect 10’, ‘Don’t Marry Her’ and of course, their number one single ‘A Little Time’.
They produced 10 studio albums, 3 Greatest Hits compilations and achieved 15 million record sales worldwide.
In 2007, they decided to call time on the band but Dave Hemmingway and Alison Wheeler along with departed songwriter Paul Heaton were having way too much fun and so, The South was formed. They were joined by fellow mainstays from the original touring band and, armed with a sensational back catalogue, they departed to carry on where TBS left off.
We recently had a chat with Alison Wheeler (you can read the interview HERE) and being the all-round lovely person that she is, invited us along to the show (in exchange for a few bottles of ale), read on to see how the evening unfolded…..
The venue was filling up nicely when the support act took to the stage. Steel Threads are a two piece acoustic/power/folk/rock combo made up of Neil Wardleworth on guitar, bass drum and vocals and Laura Wilcockson on violin and vocals. They cite their influences amongst the greats as Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac and R.E.M and boy did they deliver!
They performed a number of tracks from their recent release ‘For Those Who Are Left’ and their debut album ‘Timing is Everything’ including ‘Believe’, ‘Last Night’s Love’ and even threw in a fabulous cover version of ‘Seven Nation Army’ by the mighty White Stripes. Towards the end of their set, they asked the crowd if they would prefer a classic track from Don McLean or Motorhead, the audience opted for Motorhead and away they went with a very fast version of ‘The Ace of Spades’, sadly they ran out of time and were unable to complete the song.
Their energetic performance and amusing between-song chatter was well received by the audience who I feel were well and truly warmed up for the main event.
After a brief interlude to charge glasses and empty bladders, the lights dimmed and some grandiose intro music started playing, one by one, the members of The South took to the stage, the loudest applause coming when Alison Wheeler and Dave Hemmingway took their positions before launching into their opening track ‘Stick it in and Turn it’. Dave looked his usual cool self with his hooded jacket done up to the top, it was quite a warm night anyway so it wasn’t long until the hood came down, being removed altogether after the first couple of songs.
Dave thanked the crowd for coming along to see them and mentioned that they were going to play a variety of tracks, some old, some new, some grey and some blue (you can guess which one the latter refers to!).
‘A Little Time’ was perfectly executed, the spotlight shone on Alison when she sang her solo section with just the keys providing a platform, the subtlety of the brass section brought it all back to life again.
‘Prettiest Eyes’ was a real crowd pleaser, played on acoustic guitar and keys, it sounded quite stripped down but perfectly complimented the vocal style of Dave and Alison.
‘Old Red Eyes’ really got the crowd going, it’s a classic track and one of my favourites so to see it all unfold from our side of stage vantage point was a real treat. Alison mentioned that she had been tee-total for the grand sum of 3 days and really wanted to let her hair down and have a beer or two after the show, not to the same level as ‘Old Red Eyes’ though!
The set was split nicely between the classics and a few numbers lifted from their debut album ‘Sweet Refrains’, this allowed them to share the newer material as well as keep the masses happy at the same time.
Alison sung a superb version of ‘Dream a Little dream’ which Dave joined in halfway along with light keys, muted trumpet and a stand up electric bass (sounded like a double bass but was super thin and modern looking!).
The final furlong of the set-list was peppered with hit after hit, ‘How Long’s a Tear’, ‘Rotterdam’, ‘36D’, ‘Don’t Marry Her’ and ended with ‘Perfect 10’ where the band left the stage to rapturous applause. The chanting/clapping/stamping of feet started and it wasn’t long before they shuffled back to their positions on stage to perform a 3 song encore consisting of ‘Sail This Ship’, ‘You Keep It All In’ and ending the night with the sublime ‘Good as Gold’.
We were fortunate enough to be invited to the ‘green room’ after the show where we helped the band consume the remainder of the beer in their fridge prior to hitting Exeter for a few more drinks. At the pub the guitar technician told me all about his touring days with various bands including Shaun Ryder (The Happy Mondays) well, what he could remember….(it wasn’t a lengthy conversation for obvious reasons!) Julian (musicmuso photographer) and I then chatted to The South's trumpet player about renovating a rundown garden shack into a state of the art recording studio, we even went into such detail as what type of plasterboard to use and soundproofing, as you do! Some of us had to be up early on Sunday morning so after a round of farewells, we were on our way home.
Highlights from the gig for me, I would have to say hearing the classic tracks that bought back so many great memories from the past and meeting the band after the show, they’re a bunch of genuine, hardworking, honest people who are more than happy to meet fans after the show and have a chat over a pint.
The South continue to tour the UK and regularly sell out venues, if you get the chance to go see them live, I suggest you do, it’s a great night out, singing along to the classics until your vocal chords ache is a brilliant way of winding down after a tough week in the office.
Stick It In
From Under The Covers
A Little Time
Old Red Eyes
Second Coming / If I Laugh
Song For Whoever
We Are Each Other
Dream a Little Dream
How Long's a Tear
Pretenders To The Throne
Woman In The Wall
Don't Marry Her
Sail This Ship
You Keep It All In
Good As Gold
Review by Steve Muscutt
Photography by Julian Baird