As much as the arrival of mince pies, mulled wine and the embarrassing office party, the December Status Quo shows have been helping to signify that Christmas is just around the corner for the past 20 or so years. It would appear that 2016 will see an end to this tradition as this tour is billed as ‘The Last Night Of The Electrics’. While Quo fans have had 32 years of gigs since their first ‘End Of The road’ tour, with Rick Parfitt retiring earlier this year following his most recent heart attack, it does seem as though this is the end of the Quo as we know them.
As ever, there’s always a variety with the support acts and tonight at the Barclaycard Arena is no exception. The show is opened by the quirky Lounge Kittens, as the name would suggest, playing lounge music. However, as one of the girls announces as they walk out “you’re going to know all of these songs…” and indeed we do. They start with the Who’s ‘Who Are You’ and rattle through classic rock favourites from AC/DC, Toto and even Limp Bizkit all loaded with harmony vocals in a lounge style that’s interesting and fun to watch.
Far more of an interesting proposition is REO Speedwagon, whose visits to the UK have been very sparse in recent years. They are given an hour long set and they deliver a concise and punchy set packed full of classics. ‘Don’t Let Him Go’, ‘Take It On The Run’ and ‘Keep Pushin” all get things moving along nicely. Recognising the city’s musical heritage singer Kevin Cronin even lets out a short burst of ‘War Pigs’ (and gets a good response from the crowd singing back to him), before he suggests that with Quo and Sabbath approaching retirement that maybe the fans could look to a “younger classic rock band to take their place”. Neal Doughty then moves to the piano for play the intro to one of their greatest hits; ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’. Later Bruce Hall will take centre stage to sing lead on ‘Back On The Road Again’ while ‘Ridin’ The Storm Out’ is dedicated to former guitarist Gary Richrath who sadly died last year.
Before you know it, their set has flown by and ending with ‘Keep On Loving You’ and ‘Roll With The Changes’ one can only hope that they return soon for a headline show – a night at the Symphony Hall would be most welcome!
Many of those attending tonight would have bought their tickets before the news of Rick Parfitt’s heart attack and subsequent retirement from the band that’s been his life for the past 49 years. So at best, there was always going to be a sense of trepidation about the night. Not only does Irish born Richie Malone have some pretty big white pumps to fill, he also has to open the show with the de rigueur intro of ‘Caroline’. It’s a task that he pulls off with surprising ease and as the song gets underway, there’s no mistaking that this is a Quo show and not just the Frantic One. Watching the crowd on the arena floor bouncing up and down to early numbers ‘Something Bout You Baby I Like’ and ‘Hold You Back’ affirm this.
Rossi himself appears relaxed and in quite a jovial mood. He’s chatty and delights in heckling the audience, although his reference to drummer Leon Cave’s white shirt being due to him training to be a dental technician is lost on the crowd giving him a short tumbleweed moment before they start their acoustic section. ‘Gerdundula’ he explains was “written on two out of tune guitars that sounded ok when played together”. The song has all band members at the front of the stage with Andy Bown on guitar while Malone plays bass, and is a short respite before the guitars are turned up again for ‘In The Army Now’.
It is also interesting to note that Rhino was handling more of Rick’s vocals on the likes of ‘Creepin Up On You’ and ‘Again, Again’. It’s here where Rick’s absence is felt but it doesn’t distract from the party as they head into the home strait with ‘Whatever You Want’ and ‘Rockin’ All Over The World’.
While fate decided that this wasn’t quite the way fans had envisaged the last of the electrics, it was certainly a damn fine show, and one that was enjoyed thoroughly. The show was also recorded by Live Here Now, copies of which are already available on download. And so ends an era, and next time Quo visit the city it’s most likely to be a more sedate acoustic affair.