Review: The South, 53 Degrees, May 3.

The South play Kendal Brewery Arts Centre on May 30
The South play Kendal Brewery Arts Centre on May 30

It was a night of nostalgic singing along at The South’s 53 Degrees show in Preston on Saturday night.

Essentially The Beautiful South minus vocalist Paul Heaton, the nine piece band fronted by Alison Wheeler and Dave Hemingway featured a fantastic brass section along with original keyboardist Damon Butcher.

Something of a Marmite band - people seem to either love them or hate them - there’s no disputing however The Beautiful South’s 15 million record sales or 34 chart singles, or the catchy lyrics and quirky yet down to earth subjects they cover so well.

The show was sold out, but what I handn’t realised in advance was they had been confined to the upstairs room at 53 Degrees, which lacks much of the atmosphere you get in the venue’s main performance space.

I’d have thought a band of their calibre and notoriety would have easily filled the venue.

The music was also very quiet, especially the vocals, and this didn’t really improve as the set progressed, which was a shame because it’s the vocals that set them apart.

At the back of the room you could quite easily have a low level chat while the music played.

The audience at the front more than filled the vocal void however, as the band launched into their greatest hits with gusto, interspersed with new music from the current line-up.

Everything was there - A Little Time, Old Red Eyes Is Back, Rotterdam, Perfect Ten, Song For Whoever, 36D, We Are Eachother, Prettiest Eyes – and the relatively mature in age crowd rarely missed a note.

Alison Wheeler also treated us to a sultry cover of Dream A Little Dream.

Their new stuff was good too, taken from the album Sweet Refrains, which is a little more experimental with genres and styles.

They finished with Good As Gold (Stupid As Mud), or at least we hoped they did as we had to leave to get the far too early 11.05pm bus back to Lancaster.

All in all a good night out and another “wanted to see” band ticked off the list for me.

They play Kendal Brewery Arts Centre on May 30.

Nick Lakin.