Review by Paul H Birch and photos by Rich Ward
Forget ageism, I’m angry: within ten minutes of entering The Civic my legs have been bashed in by two careless owners of the many walking sticks here tonight. If they drink one too many of the Piledriver ales being advertised and start playing air guitar with them I’m likely to get my head caved in too. To that end, I walk swiftly towards a wall for safety, fool that I am as I’ll find out later.
The sound of helicopters landing in the dark gives way to bright lights and a five piece band on stage shrugging their shoulders in time to the slamming brisk chords they’re playing. This is Toseland, a band fronted by former World Superbike Champion James Toseland; he’s got a decent voice, the lead guitarist shrieks well, and they go through a lot groove changes in this first number. Second one is ‘Burning The System’ and they have the crowd clapping along to its AC/DC radio friendly sound. A few more and James T’s voice loosens up, offering a greater range, at which point he also starts playing electric piano. They slow things down for ‘Just No Way’, get back up with ‘Life Is Beautiful’, then screech into the 90s hard rock of ‘Comin’ to Get Ya’ as the crowd remain impressed, clapping along. Delivering around ten numbers, with brief appreciative, polite thanks in between, they end with the hard-on strut of ‘Renegade’, the title track off their debut album; then wave goodbye to some newly made fans.
Between Toseland’s performance and the tunes being played over the PA either side of their performance it’s apparent that with several decades in the business Status Quo have invested in a bloody good PA system, within the next fifteen minutes we’re going to find out just how good. When thunderous chords tear through the skies and the stage curtain bearing Status Quo’s Hello! album cover falls to the floor I presume there’s been an accident. Meanwhile everyone else thinks they’re at a football match roaring out “Quo-whoah-whoah” as floodlights begin to overwhelm us, until slowly I catch my breath and take in what’s happening: Status Quo are standing on stage, in front of a wall of amps the size of which I’ve not seen in decades, playing before an audience that is possessed. I’m not a Quo listener by inclination and I hope nobody notices and decides to sacrifice me as part of this pagan ritual I’m witness to, but I can’t help admiring so many things about tonight’s event.
You want surprises? Well, Rick Parfitt’s grown his hair back, and lost a lot of weight; it’s aged his face but he looks healthier than he has in years. And that’s about it because they’re playing the same set they did last time they were reunited here, as reported by The Midlands Rocks, with the exception that they’re presumably tighter now. For those of us less au fait with the classic line-up it’s a surprise that bass guitarist Alan Lancaster handles lead vocals on the first four numbers, he doesn’t move much and he appears to have shrunk with age but he wears a big grin all night. Me, not always, for by the time of ‘Is There A Better Way’ the wall I’m leaning against is vibrating like crazy from the power being pumped out on stage. Francis Rossi goes up the microphone next, the evening’s master of ceremony for song introductions and politically incorrect jokes, he takes lead vocals on ‘In My Chair’ and come ‘Most Of The Time’ he’s working his fretboard with articulated runs and note-bending wails.
Parfitt takes lead vocals for ‘Rain’ a song that is not just loud tonight but scientifically demonstrates why we describe such music as heavy for now there is not only a wall bouncing me in the back but the very air in front of me is pounding at my chest. It’s a scary feeling, yet I’m beginning to feel more alive than I have in years. This is British rock for the masses, music with the kind of crossover appeal that only Slade and Thin Lizzy other than the Quo could ever deliver to the people, and tonight I put any musical snobbery to one side and applaud. It’s at this point the band start reaching a high water point, Rossi returning to the mic for the disturbingly dark broken romance of ‘(April) Spring, Summer And Wednesdays’ wherein its psychedelic grinding proto-grunge riff is strangely uplifting. At its conclusion John Coghlan leans forward looking absolutely shattered, a drummer I can’t say I’ve really listened to before, but it’s the power of his forearms and the way his bass drum locks in with Lancaster’s deadbolt notes that drive this machine tonight, and hold the main responsibility for the walls shaking. Not that there’s any let-up for they’re into ‘Forty-Five Hundred Times’ and if at all possible the crowd go even wilder.
My deadpans aside, there are all ages here tonight, not least the little lad on his dad’s shoulders thrusting his fists in the air, way past his bedtime, but Status Quo are running to time and will ensure those catching trains don’t miss the last one home as ‘Down Down’ churns out its familiar chords and ‘Roadhouse Blues’ sees Bob Young guest on harmonica for a second time tonight, before the inevitable encores are delivered.
The love that Status Quo’s fans have for the band on stage is genuine, and the Frantic Four pay that back with respect, grafting hard and ensuring a memorable rock show has been delivered right up to their last three chords.
Status Quo Website: www.statusquo.co.uk
1. Junior’s Wailing
3. Just Take Me
4. Is There A Better Way
5. In My Chair
6. Blue Eyed Lady
7. Little Lady
8. Most Of The Time
10. (April) Spring, Summer And Wednesdays
12. Oh Baby
13. Forty-Five Hundred Times/Gotta Go Home
14. Big Fat Mama
15. Down Down
16. Roadhouse Blues
18. Bye Bye Johnny