Writer: Paul Heaton, Che Walker
Director: George Perrin &Paines Plough
Reviewer: Lucia Cox
Tonight, amid screams from the uber fans and blinding floodlight, there’s a bit of an anomaly occurring on stage. Not quite theatre and not so much a gig, Paul Heaton’s The 8th works in a visceral rather than cerebral way. The show opens with a solo violin (played by drummer Pete Marshall) and to rapturous cheers, the singers, including Heaton and actor Reg E Cathey (he of The Wire fame) take their places on the ‘alter’ to exalt in the Lord and confess their deadliest of sins.
In collaboration with Paines Plough theatre company, Heaton’s vision is an epic stage poem bringing the story of the Reverend (Cathey) to his metaphorical knees as he shares his dark past with the congregation. The singers, including Simon Aldred (Cherry Ghost), Wayne Gidden, Mike Greaves, former Beautiful South singer, Jacqui Abbott, and Heaton himself take turns to imbibe and vomit truths in an almost euphoric frenzy.
There’s a wide variety of musical and vocal styles on offer and, at times, it’s overwhelming and slightly unnerving both aurally and visually but, on the whole, there’s something truly interesting happening and Heaton’s concept is a success. His band is par excellence. Christian Madden (The Earlies) is on keys, Johnny Wright on bass, Johnny Lexus on guitar and Marshall on drums plus a string section, then, there are nine singers and an actor. Like a Top of the Pops Christmas special, it’s thrilling if slightly discombobulating to see all these talents together in one place for the hour-long show.
The second half of the show is a bite sized retrospective of Heaton’s back catalogue. With each of the singers putting a new spin on an old track, it’s a Dylan-going-electric bitter-sweet rendition for his fans. There are some new tracks, too, notably, Costa del Sombrero which Heaton himself sings. The singer recently turned 50 and has toured the country by bike covering 2000 miles. Perhaps it’s this which gives him the vim of a man half his age. Whatever it is he’s taking, it’s working. The man’s on form and charming, funny and arresting as he ever was.
Photo: Joel Chester Fildes
Reviewed on the 6th July