There can hardly be a rock fan who has not seen the Quireboys at some point in the last 35 years and whatever their view of the band, warmed to the bibulous, twinkly, laddish charms of singer Spike.
The Quireboys’ own occasional acoustic shows, notably when touring ‘Halfpenny Dancer’ a few years ago were surprisingly good, so he was an obvious candidate (though apparently one who needed a little persuading from promoter Paul Newcomb) to go out on the road in ‘an audience with’ style, with the unplugged and seated format one of the few gig options in lockdown.
The first show was at this South-West London bar where Noel Nevin has been bravely soldiering on with gigs during the pandemic, so this was a return visit and it seemed as if many of the audience were also back for more.
The tone was set as he asked us all to raise our glasses, while spying Dave ‘Bucket’ Colwell in the crowd (is there ever a London gig the ex Bad Company guitarist isn’t seen at?) so he was the butt of much of the early humour.
Sharing their Geordie lilt, cheekiness and naturally funny storytelling manner, purely as a comedy performer he could give fellow North Easterners Ross Noble and Sarah Millican a run for their money. The evening was peppered with stories and one liners, of which my favourite was ‘I went to name droppers anonymous- you’ll never guess who was there!’
However there was more music than I had expected from the ‘audience with’ billing from Spike, accompanied by Viking looking lead guitarist Christian Hellmann who was his straight man and avoided the banter. He opened with what he called a favourite Geordie folk song in Lindisfarne’s ‘Run for Home’, perhaps lesser known than ‘Fog on the Tyne’ but in my view a superior song, as well as one untarnished by Gazza.
Indeed the early set seemed drawn from a late seventies Top of the Pops episode that the young Spike would remember (as indeed I do) with covers of ‘Pearl’s a Singer’ and ‘Darlin’.
His ever huskier voice suited the latter perfectly and he joked that Frankie Miller’s wife had told him it was the song he most hated. There were two other songs with a Frankie connection in ‘Raining Whiskey’ and the duet he recorded with Bonnie Tyler on 100% Pure Frankie Miller, ‘Fortune’, with another hilarious one-liner that his mother had asked whose voice was who!
While ‘You Can’t Always Get You Want’ had people joining along in a manner guaranteed to cause alarm among our SAGE scientists, other songs dipped even further into popular music tradition with some Ray Charles and even Frank Sinatra in ‘Little Ole Wine Drinker Me’.
With the break looming he unwisely asked what the time was and I could not resist shouting out ‘its 7 o’clock!’ before he closed the first set with ‘The First Cut is the Deepest’, the Cat Stevens song most associated with his idol and the man he referred to as the ‘cockney Scot’.
The second set began with more Geordie heritage in ‘House of the Rising Sun’ and, though they were not the main focus of the evening, there were some Quireboys songs in ‘Baby Just Walk’ and a 1-2 of ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’ which is surely his trademark song and ‘There She Goes Again’, apparently played as originally written. They were accompanied by nostalgic anecdotes from his days trying to make it in London in the 1980s, including his friendship with Tyla of Dogs D’Amour as he even played, in brilliant fashion, the latter’s breakthrough hit ‘How Come it Never Rains’.
His affection for his family shone through his stories, With Christian taking a short break he even played a couple of more personal, old fashioned songs dedicated to his mother, before playing what he admitted was his favourite song ‘Streets of London’ and a very fine version of ‘Wild Horses’ to close.
I’ve seen Quireboys countless times but this was a great insight into his life and influences. When you marry that to his ability to tell stories in convivial fashion, these dates which are being rolled out around the country come highly recommended.
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 12 September 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 14 September 2021.
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Featured Albums w/c 6 September 2021 (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 HEARTLAND Into The Future (Escape Music)
12:00-13:00 VEGA Anarchy And Unity (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 JACKSON BROWNE Downhill From Everywhere (indie)
Power Plays w/c 20 September 2021 (Mon-Fri)
BAD TOUCH Twenty Five Miles (Marshall)
THE HUMAN VEIL Enemies (indie)
DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY Now’s The Time (Golden Robot Records)
VANSLEEP Oceans (indie)
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