Date Reviewed: 7 July 2012
WOS Rating: ***
Average Reader Rating: *****
One of the many success stories of the Manchester International Festival 2011 the 8th; one of the longest pop songs ever as it was billed comes to the Lowry to an excited and eager audience who are loyal to Paul Heaton, a stalwart of the Manchester music scene.
The 8th is actually a series of several songs about the 7 deadly sins and their relevance in today’s society. Reg E Cathey of the Wire fame is the enigmatic preacher whose journey from crime and lack of morality to the righteousness is the vehicle for the story delivers a passionate yet somewhat crazed and erratic performance that sucks the audience in and gives the piece its consistency.
The story is punctuated by a song about each sin, performed by a different singer bringing many different styles of vocals to stage. Heaton takes to the microphone to sing about the 8th sin; a modern scourge on society that most people indulge in yet can be the cruellest sin of all.
The concept is an interesting one and at times works fantastically well. The band are phenomenal with a fantastic string section that create some fantastic sounds and overall create a great sound building suspense, dashing hope and making a rising crescendo of sounds that by the final number has got everyone clapping, bobbing their heads and moving to the sound.
However, a poor sound mix leads to the vocals in one or two numbers indistinguishable and makes the story hard to follow at times. Coupled with a bizarre and at times visually assaulting lighting show, the 8th can make for uncomfortable viewing but physically and metaphorically.
It remains unclear exactly what the moral of the story is; can we forgiven for our sins or is it just a hard hitting story designed purely for thought provoking entertainment? The purpose of the 8th is vague but one thing is for certain; it takes Heaton out of his comfort zone and may not quite be the show fans of his are expecting but it is an idea that has potential.
Fabulous lyrics save the day and lend themselves well to an entertaining night out - that is far from your run of the mill musical show.
- Ruth Lovett