Paul Carrack @ Indigo2

5 stars (out of 5)

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Well, first visit to Indigo2 and what a way to start.  The venue is exactly what you should get if you started with a blank sheet and tried to design a flexible, intimate space with a capacity around 2,000 and a great sound.  Add in friendly staff and effective but unobtrusive security and you’ve got a great gig venue which neatly fills the gap left by the closure of The Astoria.

The Ragged Flags filled the support slot with their uplifting blend of Celtic, rock, folk and country influences which got a few toes tapping and they were rewarded with a pretty good response from a very receptive audience.  They even managed to get in a few plugs for their debut EP “Sign Your Name” which is out now.  While the audience were reasonably enthusiastic, they were Paul Carrack’s audience and a sense of anticipation built steadily as showtime approached.

Normally I would give you some background on the headline act, but I did that in my recent review of his new album “Good Feeling” (which you should all buy straight away).  Let me just say that this man has a phenomenal voice, is a great keyboard player and plays a pretty mean guitar as well (not to mention the melodica).  His singing and playing are saturated with soul and he knows how to interpret and sell a song to maximum effect.  The set opened with the title track from the new album, followed by the Squeeze classic “Tempted” (you know he sang on the original, obviously) and that set the pattern for the rest of the evening.

The set was split evenly between classic songs from Paul’s history with Ace, Squeeze and Mike & the Mechanics and material from the new album injected throughout the set.  The “Good Feeling” songs are so strong that they slotted perfectly into the set and most of the audience actually knew them already.  It’s difficult to pick out highlights from such a stunning set, but “Tempted” has always been a favourite of mine, “Long Ago” was brilliant in a Westlife-for-grownups way and it’s always great to hear “How Long” again.

The band were excellent (but who wouldn’t want to play in Paul Carrack’s band) and the pacing of the set was perfect.  After the emotional wringer of “The Living Years” towards the end of the set the band dropped seamlessly into the uptempo, upbeat “When My Little Girl is Smiling” to restore the feelgood factor as the set neared the end.  The final encore was the nostalgic “Marmalade Moon” (co-written with Chris Difford) which allowed the band to give it the beans for 5 minutes before sending everyone home happy.

You can still see Paul on the second leg of this tour and on the tour with Eric Clapton next year and I strongly recommend that you do because he’s a genuine legend.  I don’t suppose Sheffield does blue plaques, but there should be one on the Carrack house.  And I got some really nice photos as well; you can see them here in a couple of days.