The increasingly Beautiful South

WATCHING The Beautiful South at Brixton Academy, you think you've stumbled in on a rehearsal. The three singers have that just-haven't-got-out-of-bed look. Paul Heaton, the Paul Merton of pop, is reading from a lyric sheet on a music stand.

Maybe they're feeling complacent. Their "best of" album, Carry on up the Charts, has carried on up to the top, past the Beatles' Live at the BBC. ("Hey, guess what," deadpans Heaton. "You know the group who do `Love Me Do'? Yeah, we're better than them, apparently.") They know that even their tuneless songs are tuneful by others' standards. Most remarkable are the vocals. Heaton sounds like Jimmy Nail would if Jimmy Nail could really sing.

Not only do the harmonies warm up the audience, eventually they even warm up the performers. By the end, the whole band are reeling around the stage. You think you're going to the first night, it starts off as a rehearsal, and turns into an end-of-tour party.

Massive Attack don't attack, they nuzzle. There's nothing violent about the loping bass, lush string samples, and Space Invader sound effects that fill London's Galtymore Ballroom on Thursday.

And they aren't very massive either. The band are a three-strong core orbited by guest singers and rappers. Tonight, however, there is no Tracey Thorn, no Shara Nelson, and no Tricky. Daddy G stands in for him, but if he's going to rap, "They call me Tricky for particular reason," he should add: "The reason is that they've mistaken me for someone else." Present and correct, however, are Horace Andy, with his call-to-prayer vibrato, the like of which most of us can achieve only by singing while hitting ourselves repeatedly in the epiglottis, and Nicolette, with her show-stealing, snake-charming voice.

The "multi-media" consists of screens showing a computer-animated person made of oranges (symbolism fans love this: it's the Eurochild, munching its way into the Common Market). The show is not far off a school disco, except that you're more likely to spot Bjork. So, Massive Attack is not the most apposite name for the band tonight, although it does sound better than Middling Nuzzle.

Tom Jones is trying to fool us. His new album, The Lead and How to Swing It (ZTT), is produced by the trendiest names around. He's funking, he's rapping, he's reminding interviewers that he used to hang out with Janis Joplin. And he has the worst album cover since Roxy Music split up: a model in an itsy-bitsy bikini, grasping a monstrous pneumatic drill (symbolism fans, I'll leave this one to you). Is he a contemporary artist?

I'm not fooled. Of those fans at the Hammersmith Apollo on Thursday, almost all were middle-aged, pensioners, or as old as Tom himself. And what they want is Jones swivelling away to the "classics": "Delilah" (never has murder sounded so jolly) and "What's New, Pussycat" (Does he really want a woman with a "pussycat nose"? Should he be admitting it in public?). Jones may have a dollop of showmanship, a voice that shatters mountains, and a youthful band, but he's not a cutting-edge pop star.

Or so I thought. Then a hammering bassline kicks off "A Girl Like You", a hard-rock track that leaves the audience looking like residents of Madame Tussauds. He wins them back with "It's Not Unusual", followed by Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way?". It was all a double bluff. Tom is cool, after all.

Beautiful South: Blackpool Empress, 0253 27786, tonight; Humberside Ice Rink, 0482 25252, Mon & Tues. Tom Jones: Cardiff IA, 0222 224488, Mon.

Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Arts and Entertainment
All-new couples 'Come Dine With Me'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne
musicReview: BST Hyde Park, London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart star in Almost Royal burning bright productions
tvTV comedy following British ‘aristos’ is accused of mocking the trusting nature of Americans
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice