GIG REVIEW: Paul Heaton at The Bulls Head, St Neots

THERE S a certain completeness to the fact that you re reading about this gig on The Hunts Post website – as we re partly responsible for it happening. Cecile Neale, the landlady at The Bulls Head in St Neots, answered an appeal in this paper looking for

THERE'S a certain completeness to the fact that you're reading about this gig on The Hunts Post website - as we're partly responsible for it happening.

Cecile Neale, the landlady at The Bulls Head in St Neots, answered an appeal in this paper looking for a pub to host a show as former Beautiful South singer Paul Heaton cycles across the country on his Pedals and Beer Pumps tour in support of both his latest music and the precious English public house.

Of all the offers that came his way from this region, The Bulls Head in Cambridge Street was chosen and it certainly provided host to a fantastic occasion.

Very rarely do you see such multi-million selling artists such as Heaton play venues like this. And now here he was. In a pub.

Just like any pub band you'd see, they were carefully tucked into the corner, flanked by a modest PA system and face-to-face with the crowd. Heaton was probably closer to some audience members than to some members of his band - it was pretty intimate.

And within this unlikely setting it was so apparent that while his music suited the setting perfectly, it didn't belong there. What struck me most was the rough beauty of his voice - soulful, but layered with so much character.

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The songs skipped along with the brisk charm of his classic Beautiful South and Housemartins favourites, but most of the material was from his highly praised solo albums. His songs, as ever, are decorated with his brilliantly wry lyrics and burst with melody. And to finish the pub gig with a cover of the Clash's White Man in Hammersmith Palais seemed appropriate and brought proceedings to a perfect close.

Heaton, 47, began his 16-date tour on the set of Coronation Street's Rovers Return pub in Manchester and will have sung at pubs in Cheshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and London, travelling between the gigs on his bike.

_CHRIS BOLAND

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