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Paul Heaton, The 8th – The Lowry, Salford

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


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    This review is sooooooooo spot on !
    I first saw the 8th last year,this time I was able to follow and understand it more and found it deliciously different but oh so special at the same time!

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    really enjoyed the intensity of heatons 8th….waiting for each section to be sung in their own particular way…. was an emotional rollercoaster, which ended up on a Heaton high at the end… Really loved the second half of the gig…It was the musical yarns from heaton that made it for me, and the unassuming manner he has about his musical writing talents that makes me enjoy his music, more and more each day.. He is not a complete cock like the bonos of our world thats for sure. Each vocalist made his song’s their own, yet the genius of Heaton and story behind each song shone through. Cannot wait to see this again.

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    I agree with the two previous comments. I found this absolutely brilliant! Listened to the album for the first time on the way to the theatre and became completely engrossed in the performance. Much credit Mr Heaton and all the players.Outstanding!