Paul Heaton At Glastonbury Review: Norman Cook joins Housemartins bandmate for heart-stirring set

The presence of Fatboy Slim made for a partial Housemartins reunion, but Paul Heaton’s afternoon set delivered so much more.

Paul Heaton and Norman Cook Glastonbury 2024

by Andy Fyfe |
Updated on

Magic often happens at Glastonbury, but sometimes the chakras are so open and aligned that there are moments of pure, tear-flowing joy. One of those unicorn events came under the baking sun as Paul Heaton closed his set with The Isley Brothers’ Caravan Of Love, a hit for The Housemartins all the way back in 1986.

Ahead of the looming general election, he implores the crowd to, “Please take this message with you on Thursday,” and if anyone wasn’t swaying their hands aloft throughout it was only because they needed them to wipe a fast-moistening eye. Gloriously unifying, it wasn’t even the most joyous moment of this endlessly joyous performance.

Earlier, Heaton had marvelled at following K-Pop boy band 17.

“I was in the original boy band in the 80s, called The Housemartins,” he popsplains. And to a huge roar he shouts, “Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Mr Norman Cook.” Beaming erstwhile Housemartin Fatboy Slim, DJing elsewhere later in the day, strides on stage with a bass guitar around his neck for possibly the first time in decades and spritely picks his way through Happy Hour. The love for the one-time fourth best band in Hull is apparently undiminished, dads everywhere tripping themselves onto their arses attempting to join in with Heaton’s cod-Northern Soul foot shuffle from the song’s original video.

Something about Heaton’s tunes - and there isn’t a non-banger amongst this most festival of sets - uniquely suits the moment. The world is dangerously verging on tipping to the right (news of Joe Biden freezing during the previous night’s debate with Donald Trump is all over the news today), no matter what happens in the UK’s own election the country will still be broken and bruised for a generation to come, but this man’s songs of kitchen sink romance, doomed misfits and quiet despair, drawn from a seemingly bottomless well of classic pop melodies, chime like nothing else, perfectly encapsulating the melancholic yet hopeful ennui that seems to currently envelope us all.

From Old Red Eyes Is Back through new single Fish ’N’ Chip Supper, I’ll Sail This Ship Alone, Perfect 10, a charged and angry Heatongrad and many more, this man’s near-40 year catalogue of hits surely elevates him alongside the likes of Barry Gibb as a giant among songwriters.

Less recognised and often overlooked is Heaton’s voice. New singing foil Rhianne Downey, dressed in a Disney princess country outfit at dramatic odds with Heaton’s gasfitter chic (his ever-present anorak remains firmly zipped to the neck even in this heat), sparkles in front of a brilliant band, given an energetic punch by the three-piece horn section, but when Heaton throws his head back and really lets rip, the deep soul in his core gives gravitas to the cheekily winking tunes.

Introducing Don’t Marry Her, for instance - “This song is a bit sweary. I have a very good relationship with TV so I can’t swear, but you can,” he tells the audience - you can almost hear Jo Whiley blushing in the BBC compound.

For all the hits, however, it’s the twin moments of his reunion with Cook and that profoundly moving version of Caravan Of Love that will remain many people’s major takeaway from this year’s festival. So do Paul proud, and vote wisely people.

Set List

Old Red Eyes Is Back

I gotta Praise

Fit And Chip Supper

I’ll Sail This Alone



Song For Whoever

I Don’t See Them

Happy Hour

Good As Gold (Stupid As Mud)

Perfect 10

Don’t Marry Her

You Keep It All In


Rotterdam (Or Anywhere)

Caravan Of Love

Stay on MOJO4MUSIC across the weekend for full coverage of Glastonbury 2024’s best music, including Squeeze's opening greatest hits show, Dexys at the Park Stage, LCD Soundsystem and more!

Picture: BBC

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