The South – Westcliff Palace Theatre – a Perfect 10

Half way through their Autumn 2014 UK tour The South – re-formed members of The Beautiful South – headed east and played to a packed house at The Palace Theatre in Southend. The set included tracks from their latest album Sweet Refrains plus a good number from the Beautiful South back catalogue to keep the ardent fans happy. The tiny venue allowed for an intimate gig and being dead centre in the front row of the Circle I had a fantastic view.  The band had given permission for me to take some photos from the stalls so I had my proper camera with me but in the end I didn’t for various reasons. I did however snatch a couple from my seat. DSC_9126-2 The sound quality and lighting were fine considering the venue, and not so loud as to make your ears bleed which was nice.  The support act was excellent.  Singer songwriter guitarist and ex-busker Tristan Mackay talked and played his way through a very enjoyable 30 minute set.  I said hi after and bought his CD’s. At 9 o’clock prompt the 9 piece band took to the stage after a short piped intro piece carrying almost to-a-man a can of Red Stripe lager to add to those already on stage. Alison went with the water option. Front and centre on the small sloping stage were lead vocalists Alison Wheeler and Dave Hemingway.  On their right was keyboard player Damon Butcher and to their left the brass section of Tony Robinson (not of Baldrick fame) on trumpet and flugel, and Gaz Birtles on sax.  Alison looked perfect in leather jacket, chunky skirt and boots whilst Dave appeared to have misread the weather forecast and arrived on stage in winter coat with hood up and woolly scarf. With their backs to the wall were Phil Barton on guitar, Dave Anderson on drums, Steve Nutter on bass and Karl Brown on percussion.  All had their moment in the spotlight and all played with aplomb. The band played for a good 90 minutes and included all the songs you would expect including A Little Time, 36D, Old Red Eyes Is Back and a great rendition of I’ll Sail This Ship Alone.  Tracks from their recent album included Stick It In And Turn It and the excellent Pigeonhole.  Alison danced and sang her way around the stage and looked to be having a great time whilst Dave stamped out his parts from inside his coat and scarf . DSC_9140 In a touching moment mid-way through the set Alison told of a letter she had received asking if she would sing a song for the lady writer and her husband at this gig.  She obliged and sang a great rendition of Dream A Little Dream. DSC_9137-2 And so the show ended with the proper version of probably the bands most well known track Don’t Marry Her which had the audience singing along in full voice.  The house lights came on, the piped music returned, the audience put on their coats and started to leave. At which point a bemused band member returned to the stage and enquired where everyone was going as they hadn’t finished!  The audience (well most of them) returned and sang and danced along to an encore of songs that included Perfect 10 and the final final track Good As Gold. All in all it was a great gig.  The musicians were excellent and the very recognisable voices of Alison and Dave combined with the intimate venue and original arrangements of their back catalogue made for a near perfect show.  A Perfect 10 from me in fact. Follow The South on Twitter at @TheSouthUK and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheSouthBand. Alison can also be found on Twitter at @AlisonDarley. Checkout their website www.thesouth.co.uk for details of the remaining shows on their tour and to stand a chance of winning a signed merchandise bundle and Dave’s sweaty scarf, donate to the Teenage Cancer Trust at https://www.justgiving.com/TheSouthUK/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-xubLJuT1A Rotterdam Live from a recent concert http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTC8X0SBnVc Latest single from the album Sweet Refrains – Pigeonhole

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