The Beautiful South

Thetford Forest

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On the first night of a string of sold-out Forest concerts across the country, the Beautiful South seemed to be enjoying the attention.

It was going to take more than a picnic to ease the pain of miles of traffic queues on the way in, but once the band appeared all was forgiven.

The Hull-based band, formed out of the ruins of The House Martins, are on their 11th album and umpteenth tour. They are past their 1994 peak but, judging by last night, inoffensive pop is as popular as ever.

While it is questionable how many people bought their current album - the curiously-named Gold Diggas, Headnodders and Pholk songs - if you could win the adulation of thousands, then, hey, there are worse things.

The South has been around for 15 years, so the band is probably entitled to some adolescent moodiness. Perhaps that explains the decision to produce an album of several versions, a distinctly unfashionable genre. Still, full credit to them for their performance of ELO's Living Thing, which had us dancing in the metaphorical aisles.

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What we were really there for was the classics, from the likes of Quench, Blue is the Colour and the two-and-a-half-million-selling Carry on Up the Charts. Fortunately for the South, who probably aren't as limber as they were and might not have wanted to face a 5000-strong angry mob, we got them. The performance of Dumb, the second song was rusty, but by Rotherdam they had got well into the swing of things. Next was a spiky and surprisingly raw rendition of Don't Marry Her, Have Me. That only left Good as Gold (stupid as mud) for a triumphant encore.

The grey clouds parted in response to the sunny chords of the South, and as the evening fell, it seems as if the skies were listening to Cole Heathon's often bitter lyrics.

Inoffensive pop had won the day.