Status Quo’s traditional pre-Christmas tour is always a signal that the season of good cheer is here. For people of a certain age, this is as entertaining a way as any to get into the festive spirit.
The mighty Quo need no introduction: more hit singles than any other band, more hit albums than The Beatles, more appearances on TOTP than any other act; the superlatives keep coming. One of the world’s most enduring and successful live acts, they have influenced a generation of musicians and entertained millions with their driving, no-nonsense brand of rock.
As soon as the chords of opener ‘Caroline’ are heard, everyone is up, air guitars at the ready. Francis Rossi, his pony-tail long gone, talks to the crowd like they’re old friends, pointing and waving to ecstatic individuals. Wearing his signature white shirt, black waistcoat and trainers, he’s balding and a bit gaunt but still struts around the stage like he’s 40 years younger.
With the Quo, you get exactly what it says on the tin. There may be tomfoolery on stage but no cue or note is missed. These guys are seasoned pros. As they move on with the main business of ‘Something ’bout You Baby I Like’, ‘The Wanderer’ and one of three new tunes played tonight: ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll ‘n’ You’, it is evident that their no-nonsense heads-down approach is what continues to satisfy their hardcore fans.
Rick Parfitt – with his trademark white Fender Telecaster – takes lead vocals on ‘Rain’ – a brilliantly written song, and one of my Quo faves. After all, it has to be recognised that Quo are possibly some of the best songwriters of all time, using the same techniques but still managing to make each and every song unique. ‘Mean Girl’ and ‘Beginning Of The End’ are followed by ‘What You’re Proposin’’ which includes a medley of ‘Down The Dustpipe’, ‘Little Lady’, ‘Red Sky’ and ‘Dear John’ before a foot-stomping version of ‘Big Fat Mama’.
For a band with over 40 years’ worth of songs, the set is nicely balanced between the old and the new. Rossi introduces the single ‘Two Way Traffic’, from the latest album ‘Quid Pro Quo”, admitting that he may forget a few words, as the song has too many for him to handle. In amongst his banter is a quip about “forgetting a few lines”, showing no sign of embarrassment from the 62 year old regarding his crippling cocaine addiction during the 1980s.
On through ‘The Oriental’, ‘Let’s Rock’, ‘Paper Plane’, ‘Living On An Island’ and ‘In The Army Now’ – the only real negative of the show becomes hard to ignore. Less than impressive screens at the back of the stage display what can only be described as naff psychedelic screen savers. Amongst this abstract art are occasional images of the band, but this is not live footage, which I assume for those sat at the back of the arena must be painfully frustrating.
Quo begin the home straight with a quartet of timeless classics – ‘Roll Over Lay Down’, ‘Down Down’, ‘Whatever You Want’ and ‘Rockin’ All Over The World’. By now the crowd are entirely on their feet and it is clear that the band have delivered a show that will have many of them back again in twelve months time for more of the same. The encore concludes in festive spirit with tour special guests Roy Wood and Kim Wilde joining in for a run through of ‘Walking In A Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’ – a fun, throwaway end to a great gig.
This show is a bit special for me to review and photograph because Quo were the first major band I ever saw play live. In 1984 on their “End Of The Road” tour, it was a start for me, helping to shape and cement my musical appreciation forever. Tonight, 27 years later, no musical barriers may have been smashed down, but Quo prove an enduring appeal that spans generations. No matter whether you consider them a national treasure or a guilty pleasure, they remain a captivating live draw.
Review & Photography: Steve Johnston