Reviewed by Catherine Joyce
Last night (8 April 2018) we went to Preston Guild Hall to see The South, a nine piece band born out of the remains of 90’s hit band The Beautiful South following their split in 2007. The band is fronted by singer Alison Wheeler and former saxophonist Gaz Birtles who switched to lead male singer after the retirement of founder member Dave Hemingway in 2017. They are now the only two remaining members of the original band with seven other musicians making up the rest of the group.
I have always been a fan of The Beautiful South and have all their albums but have never seen them live so I was very excited about seeing The South at Preston Guild Hall. One of UK’s most successful bands, The Beautiful South specialised in full bodied pop teamed with meaningful lyrics and with the majority of tracks written as a duet the voices of Alison and Gaz worked wonderfully together, recreating that distinctive sound. This is also helped by the band which adds so much depth to the experience whether it is the quiet Dream a Little Dream or the full on rocking out of 36D.
The night was split into two sets with a 20 minute break in the middle. The band took to the stage with one of their own numbers Stick it In and Turn It followed by a number of favourites from The Beautiful South’s back catalogue including Old Red Eyes is Back, the band’s only number one, A Little Time and one of my favourite songs One Last Love Song. They played for forty minutes before breaking for the interval.
The second half saw many more favourites with the audience taking to their feet for a bit of a dance and giving the band’s rendition of Rotterdam a massive response. Gaz Birtles, although a member for many years, was new to the role of lead vocalist but had a great voice belting out all the old songs perfectly. The Beautiful South’s first single, Song for Whoever was well received by the audience with everyone joining in. Other favourites were The Woman in the Wall; How Long does a Tear Take to Dry? Perfect 10 and the popular Don’t Marry Her. The band left the stage returning for an encore with Sail this Ship Alone, You Keep it all In and Carry on Regardless.
The performance took place in the Charter Theatre which is a smaller venue within the complex, perfect for musical performances and with a more intimate feel than the larger Guild Hall. Seating is comfortable and everyone gets a good view of the stage.
We parked in the recently modernised multi storey car park which adjoins the Guild Hall and is now clean and bright and still not expensive.
Whether it is a cocktail bar, an Italian restaurant or something more relaxed you’re after, the Guild Hall offers a variety of options for pre-show food and drink for those who are making a night of it.
We really enjoyed our night out which brought back some great memories of some wonderful times, I sang along to every song and have to say it is the best live band I have seen for a very long time. With more dates planned around the country and some festivals over the summer there’s no excuse not to see them too.
The South are currently on tour around the UK, for more information and tour dates visit thesouth.co.uk.
For other shows at the Preston Guild Hall visit www.prestonguildhall.co.uk or call the box office on 01772 804444.
The Guild Hall & Charter Theatre, Lancaster Road, Preston, PR1 1HT | 01772 804444