Playing a classic album in its entirety is now such a well established concert concept that bands are having to approach it a little differently. The Quireboys already did this many years ago to mark 20 years of ‘A Bit of What You Fancy’, but that classic debut has tended to overshadow the rest of their catalogue including the series of albums since they reformed in the early 2000’s.
It was therefore something of a left field move to play 2008’s ‘Homewreckers and Heartbreakers’ in its entirety to mark its tenth anniversary, even though it was a return to form and spawned a couple of songs that form part of the live set to this day. They also gambled on playing a venue several times larger than the band have used for recent London shows, but it was swelled close to capacity by some clever marketing offers and a supporting cast that grew to three bands.
So at the ridiculously early time of 630 Those Damn Crows opened proceedings, the latest in a series of up and coming bands from a Welsh scene punching above its weight, who seemed to have a surprisingly large number of supporters. The likes of ‘Don’t Give A Damn’ and ‘Someone Someday’ were a little heavy for my own tastes, blending metal with some nineties alternative influences, they nevertheless showed impressive stagecraft with singer Shane Greenhall confidently working the crowd.
‘Behind These Walls’ had an almost Alter Bridge like intensity and the way people spontaneously joined in on the chorus to ‘Blink of an Eye’ suggested they are building quite a reputation before ending with the more straight ahead ‘Rock n Roll Ain’t Dead’, Shane leading some audience participation.
Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics are also making a name for themselves, again having plenty of supporters with people around me shouting the chorus to opener ‘Left Me for Dead’. The former Heavens Basement singer is a magnetic performer. Slightly built and a dapper dresser, he commanded the stage, oozing rock star charisma in a slightly camp manner, as well as showing an impressive ability to reach and hold a high note.
His act also featured a spot of crowd surfing in which he was lifted to his standing height, though to do so twice in a short set was possibly excessive. His band also look the part but, and this is a big but, the songs were utterly unmemorable and lacking both in hooks and an identifiable direction. While entertained, I concluded that substance is not yet there to match the style.
Thus far I had been surrounded by fans proclaiming the merits of the opening acts but it was now time for me to turn the tables and eulogise about one of my own favourites, H.E.A.T., the energetic Scandinavians who for a decade now have been at the forefront of a contemporary melodic rock revival. This was a rare UK opportunity for them to break out of such a niche market and be exposed to a wider rock audience.
As they opened with ‘Bastard of Society’ and ‘Late Night Lady’, singer Erik Gronwall was his usual inexhaustible bundle of manic energy, but the hollow sound was atrocious and only gradually improved during the set. There was fun to be had in ‘Mannequin Show’- though I couldn’t help singing ‘oops I did it again’ to the chorus, such is the similarity, and ‘Beg Beg Beg’ with audience participation and snatches of ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ and ‘Piece Of My Heart’.
However ‘Redefined’ fell very flat, sounding messily disjointed, and was one of the occasions when the thought occurred to me that when Erik goes off on his sorties into the crowd, they lack a natural leader to hold the music together. It was also one of only two songs to feature in this truncated set from last year’s controversial ‘Into The Great Unknown’ album.
Instead its predecessor ‘Tearing Down The Walls’ formed the biggest part of the set with the balladic title track, Erik’s movement momentarily halted as he donned an acoustic guitar followed by the more up tempo and aggressive ‘Emergency’ and ‘Inferno’.
An all too short set ended with ‘Living On The Run’, perhaps my favourite song of the last decade, and its massive hook still rang through despite the performance again being rather ragged and undermined by the poor sound. It had been one of my least favourite HEAT shows compared to those where they had headline status, yet the reception they got and the buzz from people belatedly discovering them proved that it was mission accomplished.
When the Quireboys finally hit the stage at 9:30, playing the album ‘Homewreckers and Heartbreakers’ in its entirety but with some tweaks in the order, the sound was loud, crisp and full as they opened with ‘I Love This Dirty Town’, a live favourite to this day albeit usually later in the set, and indeed I worried whether Spike in particular could keep up that level of intensity. The band’s tightness also showed the benefits of having one of the most stable line ups in their chequered history.
After ‘Louder’ with some sterling slide guitar work from Paul Guerin came the album’s signature moment in ‘Mona Lisa Smiled’, though the folky, early seventies Rod sensibilities were somewhat lost. The pleasure of this format was to be able to hear a wider range of songs than the old favourites so familiar from the set they have delivered on countless occasions given that they are prolific tourers and festival mainstays.
Following ‘Hello’, ‘Black Water’, with Spike playing harmonica had the bluesy, southern stylings you would expect from a song inspired by Lynchburg, Tennessee, home of Jack Daniels.
An ever smiling Spike was even more full of his heart-warming bonhomie than ever and a dedication to past members of the band no longer with us led into ‘One For The Road’, and there were tender moments including the ballads ‘Late Night Saturday Call’, where he was at his huskiest and ‘Fear Within the Lie’ with another superb solo from the Les Paul-wielding Paul. He took the majority of the solos but guitar partner Guy ‘Griff’ Griffin was a man of all parts, supporting with backing vocals and being the dry foil for Spike’s banter.
I did sense that toward the end of this segment people were beginning to become impatient which was a pity as both ‘Hall Of Shame’, with some Black Crowes-esque slide guitar and ‘Take A Look at Yourself’ were fine songs, and ones which should encourage people to rediscover the album, as I had hastily done in some pre-gig homework. ‘Josephine’ with bar-room style piano from Keith Weir, was a fittingly up-tempo gateway into the remainder of a more traditional Quireboys set.
They scarcely drew breath as one much-loved debut album classic followed another- ‘Misled’ giving way to ‘There She Goes Again’ with Griff playing a tasty slide guitar solo, followed by another during ‘Hey You’ which Spike reminded us got the band on Top Of The Pops in their halcyon year of 1990. ‘Sweet Mary Ann’ sparked a raucous singalong and set the atmosphere up nicely for the inevitable closer of ‘7 o’clock’ and rarely was the ‘time for the party’ lyric more apt.
Never mind 7 o’clock, the 11 o’clock curfew was looming so I was curious how much more they could squeeze in during the encores. ‘This Is Rock n Roll’ broke the first album monopoly, but Spike said there was no way they could leave without playing ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’. Over the years the ballad’s epic qualities seem to have been accentuated, with the start of the song slowed and stripped down over Spike’s croaky whisper, then the band’s sound bigger than ever from the chorus onwards.
Sadly there was no time, in a musical sense anyway, for the usual ‘Sex Party’ but, always guaranteed to give a good night out, this was one of the more special of the many shows in Quireboys history.
Review and photos by Andy Nathan
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