Victorian railway bridges one side and real ale boozers t'other.
It's all a bit L S Lowry as 8,000 matchstick men and women bobble on cobble and slide under steel girder to Castlefield Bowl.
This fabulous amphitheatre greets sunburnt 40-somethings to night two of the Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott summer tour.
I say tour, but it's only three rather unique dates in rather unique surroundings. Last week Dalby Forest in Pickering, then on Friday 10 July it's Tynemouth Priory and Castle. "Less dates than Quasimodo" says the teeshirt. But before Britain's best double act take Notre-Dam-on-River-Irwell it's time for indie-folk-band The Leisure Society.
The second song of their fine set is called "Fight For Everyone" - a wonderful catchy pop tune that's better than anything you hear on mainstream radio. It's a short set from the Brighton based band which leaves you wanting more. Their new album "The Fine Art of Hanging On" is out now.
Next up - I Am Kloot - or as someone near me describes them: "Arctic Monkeys for grown-ups." The long-running Manchester group have about a million great songs under the belt. Some are marvellously mellow, some are manic.
The home town crowd love them. "Over My Shoulder" so fresh and breezy tonight. A gem. I Am Kloot have a new live album out which you need to check out.
9PM means it's Heaton / Abbott time. Where do we start? I could write a thesis on PD - surely one of Britain's foremost writers and poets. His career spans three decades, his songs the soundtrack to middle aged fanatics of Housemartins and The Beautiful South.
Never ones for grand entrances, they sneak on stage as if they've just walked into their local. A surprise opener - from Beautiful South album "Gaze" is "Just A Few Things That I Ain't". Second up "Pretenders To The Throne"
The pair are then quickly into fab tunes from their last album including "She's Got Some Dancing To Do" and "DIY". Housemartins classic "Five Get Over Excited" turns into a mass singalong. Then there's even bigger singalongs: "One Last Love Song" and "Rotterdam".
In-between songs Heaton is on a one-man-banter mission. Three tales follow three other tales, and then he tells another tale. The crowd lap it up. We get his relocation to Manchester 13-years-ago: "It rained for 40 days and nights," he laughs before staring at the cloudless skies: "And now look at it, I couldn't jump over a puddle if I wanted to."
The 53-year-old is in very playful mood. There's a story about bandmates pretending to be axe murderers during late night hotel japes. The next mass-participant game involves Heaton urging the audience to boo the trains trundling past the concert on the bridges stage right. "I want to give the passengers something to talk about when they get to work on Monday..."
Jacqui says nothing. She leaves it to Paul. "Jacqui sings this beautifully," he says, proudly, as she starts a gorgeous rendition of "Dream a Little Dream".
Now hang on, to take things back a few paragraphs, 53? I know, how can Paul Heaton be 53? He easily passes for ten years younger. I wonder if his giving up of booze has helped delay signs of ageing. He's still fiercely political and there's been no mellow-ment to his anti establishment stance. "You're meant to get more moderate with age. But I don't," he admits. "Me and the kids just watch TV and want to kill people who appear on it."
I presume he means politicians and royalty who seem to get aggressive treatment in a new song called "Austerity Love Song" or words to that effect.
A really special night in a special venue. A landmark evening for me and my son who makes his gigging debut a few weeks short of his sixth birthday.
I hope to be sharing a pint with him in years to come and we can chat about the first ever concert he went to. Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott - not a bad one to start with.
My lad is following in my gig-going footsteps. The first ever concert I went to, in 1989, was The Beautiful South.
Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott have a new album out soon - when they can decide on a title.
REVIEW: Heaton/Abbott, Liverpool Academy June 2014.
Dickie Felton has written two books about Morrissey.