It has been some time since I last saw Paul Roberts in live performance, either as a member of the Stranglers or in his solo guise. Living fairly local to the Plough gave me the opportunity to remedy this fact.The first thing to notice about the venue is that it is small. No matter. You don't need a huge crowd or thunderous applause to know that you are well appreciated.
The second thing to notice is the size of the stage, which is very small. It must have been a puzzle for the band how to get all their equipment plus themselves into such a small space. Still, manage it they did, and what a performance they gave.
The first two songs were performed by Paul and guitarist Andy Ellis alone, "to get used to the sound of the room" as Paul put it. "Face" was first up, followed by another Stranglers cover - an excellent version of "In Heaven She Walks". It is clear this is going to be a great night. Keyboard player Richard Naiff enters the stage for the next song, yet another Stranglers cover "Sinister". This for me is the only dubious part of the evening as the Stranglers version of this song is one of my personal favourites and the performance tonight cannot possibly do it justice. Also, with three Stranglers covers in succession I am starting to wonder if Paul is intending not to bother with his more recent stuff!
Not to worry. Bass player Brad Weismann and drummer Noel Watson enter the equation and we are into "Chasing Rainbows". Now that the full band are onstage, the first thing to notice is the quality of the sound, which is beautifully clear and mixed to perfection. The Soundman at this venue must really know his stuff.
The band play through a great mix of old and new, including "New Mourning Town", another nod to the Stranglers with a turbo-charged "She Gave It All", the Bowie cover and live favourite "Lady Grinning Soul" and a geat version of that other live staple "Fried".
The set concludes with a rousing version of "8 Days" which, as Paul put it, is "a song about suicide. Don't do it, as it upsets people"!
There is obvious enthusiasm for an encore, so Paul and the boys decide not to bother with going off only to come back again, and remain for another couple of numbers. The first of these - "shy" - is a good song, but pales into insignificance against the final offering of the evening "Shame Of The Father". With controversial subject matter (the abuse of children by religious figures) and a great tune, this is one of the most powerful performances of the evening.
Despite a clamour for more, that was it. A fantastic evening, proving once again that small 'intimate' gigs can be just as enjoyable and effective as the stadiums. Catch Soulsec live when you can. You will not be disappointed.

Ray Marshall

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