For Status Quo’s Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt, 2014 has been one of the busiest of their 65 years. The ‘Frantic Four’ reassembled for a second round of well received tour dates, the band returned to a Donington stage after over 30 years, and then they stunned fans by releasing an acoustic album which was a surprise hit.
However these days the current Quo’s bread and butter is always the December tour which seems to have taken pride of place on the Christmas gig calendar filling the void left by a certain disgraced glam rocker.
For me this gig was also full circle as just as at my first ever concert, the Quo’s End of the Road tour in 1984, Chas ‘n’ Dave were support. Their musical heritage may be different but as a pair of cheeky chappie Londoners with their own inimitable style, and even authors of a famous Cup final song, there are more similarities than you might realise.
Happily reformed after briefly splitting a couple of years back, the pair and Chas’ son Nick on drums were accompanied from time to time by a horn section as they rattled through a well received 50 minute set combining old favourites like ‘London Girls’ and even new songs such as ‘When Two Worlds Collide’.
I found myself admiring the cleverness of how their words tumbled out in rapid fire fashion, and reflecting that this music, which in Chas and Dave’s heyday was already out of its time, will never date but even more now reflects an old London which is gone forever and, like the best forms of folk in its broadest sense, their legacy should endure as a musical memory of a place and time past.
The Quo crowd seemed very receptive to their charms and ‘Rabbit’ got the biggest cheer yet, with doubtless many blokes thinking it was about their ‘troubles, and a substantial number were swaying their arms to ‘Ain’t No Pleasing You’ before they ended with the ‘Sideboard Song’.
Status Quo opened, as ever, with Rick Parfitt strumming the intro to ‘Caroline’ before the curtain was lifted, but I was slightly surprised to hear ‘Something bout You Baby I Like’ in the show, with he and Francis Rossi sharing vocals, before old favourites ‘Rain’ and ‘Paper Plane’.
More garrulous than usual, Francis Rossi’s introductory remarks had me thinking he would have been an even more amusing choice than Rick Wakeman as the ageing rock star on ‘Grumpy Old Men’, before they kicked back into classic material in ‘Little Lady’ and ‘Hold You Back’, with parts of the crowd bouncing to its rhythms though sadly in a seated area I was having to hold myself back.
Their medley (Francis – ‘we just call it a bunch of songs’) saw hits like ‘What You’re Proposing’ and ‘Wild Side of Life’ combine with some bluesier moments, Andy Bown stepping forward from his keyboards to play harmonica, such as ‘Down the Dustpipe’ and ‘Railroad’, before Rick’s tour de force,’Big Fat Mama’, surely Quo’s favourite track that was never a single.
I have to say I have never heard Rick sing better as he did all night and it appears the lifestyle changes forced on him by his latest health scare have had a beneficial effect.
What I think of as new material (some of it now a decade old) came over well like a sprightly ‘Beginning of the End’, The Oriental and Creeping Up On You even if to these ears Rick was singing the latter in a rather affected American accent. However the old school Quo fan was also catered for with the surprise of the night ‘Oh Baby’ being retained from the Frantic Four set.
I couldn’t stand ‘In The Army Now’ when it came out but it is now a guilty pleasure and they carry it off well with the lighting and Leon Cave’s drum rolls giving it an atmospheric feel.
After a drum solo it was now downhill all the way with a quartet of ‘Roll Over Lay Down’, ‘Down Down’, ‘Whatever You Want’ and ‘Rockin All Over The World’. You know the drill – 12 bar boogie, overlaid by Francis’ crisp, clean guitar solos, and some of the best known rock anthems making this the best pre-Christmas Friday party around, and with each successive number even the most reluctant members of the crowd getting to their feet.
The first encore ‘Burning Bridges’ is the marmite of the Quo catalogue – but for every long time fan that would spit on it, there seemed thousands more who were only too ready to respond to Francis’ exhortations to bounce around, and it seemed to get the best reception of the night.
They then closed with a Chuck Berry medley of ‘Rock And Roll Music’, Rick singing, and ‘Bye Bye Johnny’ with Francis leading the audience call and response, and Rick bringing his young son on stage with a guitar, looking very much the junior rocker, which was a great touch at this most family-oriented time of year.
They may be good wholesome family fun these days, with the sea of snow washed, patched denim that once marked the Quo Army uniform a rarer sight these days, but if only every live act was as reliably entertaining as Status Quo. Long may this great British institution continue to keep on rocking.
Review by Andy Nathan
Photos by Steve Goudie
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