Review by Woody, photos by Lisa Billingham
My third gig of the year and my third at The Robin already, and as I’m a huge fan of the venue I ain’t complaining, and revelling in the current crop of rock n roll the venue has lined up for the first half of this year. The Robin may not have the rock credibility that the much missed JB’s had and is more broad minded in the acts it has on (its latest big announcement being Billy Ocean) but that doesn’t stop it been an extremely comfortable venue with consistently high quality sound!
I’m not a fan of Neil Young, in fact I hate Neil Young and I really hate ‘Rocking In The Free World’ whenever I hear it makes me feel like going berserk and hunting down every copy of it in the world and destroying it with maliciously extreme prejudice. So where’s this going I hear you cry? Well quite possibly the worst start any new act could inflict on me because that song is exactly what American Mark Curran decided to open his set with and I spent the song fighting the urge to throw the nearest person to me at him.
With that song out the way, I shook myself down to give him a chance and take into consideration it can be very hard to sell yourself to a crowd acoustically who aren’t familiar with you music. So I suppose it was OK, nothing special – maybe if I heard a full electric Curran set my opinion will be different. A lot of the stuff felt like re-hashed versions of 90’s era acoustic driven Bon Jovi something that was heightened by him slipping occasionally into been a JBJ sound-alike, most notably on ‘Old Fashioned Cowboy’. Which in itself was probably his stand out track, but it did sound like he was doing a karaoke version of Bon Jovi track. You’ll not be surprised to learn that he closed his set with Bon Jovi classic ‘Blood On Blood’ and thankfully he didn’t murder it, therefore avoided appearing in the local rags following day headline ‘Singer found stuffed in wheelie bin with guitar sticking out his bum’. I will approach the band with an open mind the next time I see them as a full band and see if they can bring it, but I’ll not be seeking out an acoustic Curran show in the near future.
Now every local Quireboys fan knows that lead singer Spike, who of course is a Geordie, has lived in the Black Country for some time and currently resides in Bilston. So it has shocked me The Quireboys have never played The Robin before and even more so since the demise of JB’s especially as he’s there all the while! If you’ve not bumped into Spike at The Robin before you obviously don’t go and watch any good bands and you’ll probably be happy to know about Billy Ocean coming to town. So it’s really good to finally see him onstage here and for an acoustic show it offers better sound for the band than many other similar sized venues in the area. That said it was great to see a decent crowd turn out tonight after the two previous venues they played were less than half the capacity of the Robin and although the sold out signs couldn’t be put up outside the Robin tonight the crowd was still twice as large (if not more) than their sell out show in Bolton the previous night. I’m hoping tonight’s healthy turn out means that Spike and co will return to the Robin in the Autumn when they hit the road again in support of another new album!
Obviously with this been a stripped back acoustic tour it’s not a full band before us, it’s Spike obviously, Guitarist Paul Guerin and keyboardist Keith Weir (he’s played with Def Leppard don’t ya know!). I think the added touch of Weir really helped with the overall sound especially when you think how integral those pianos are in much of the Quireboys music. He really did add to the magic of the night. Although we all know the Quireboys are no strangers to an acoustic guitar I wasn’t sure how tonight would pan out as I tend to think of them as a good time, dirty, loud rock n roll band. Actually the format works really well for them and they sounded fantastic and the songs came across really well and from the response they got from the crowd you’d think we were at a full electric show! Especially when Spike got the crowd involved singing along and filling in on backing harmonies on the likes of ‘7 O’clock’.
Regardless of what the average rock fan thinks of The Quireboys they have one thing many bands lack which is a loyal and devout fan base who just love them unconditionally, so they turn out to shows, get on the pop and they sing and dance the night away!
It was quite possibly one of the funniest gigs I’ve ever been too I haven’t laughed so much at a gig for ages – if it wasn’t for the fact this was the Quireboys they may have made people think it was a drunken shambolic mess of a set – but this is how they roll and it works really well! Their humour really made you forget some of the imperfections in the performance and if anything made it an even better show. They were really relaxed on stage and were jovial and the anecdotes flew thick and fast, I think the added aspect of Spike living in Bilston gave it a unique feeling as local things got mentioned, like the world famous Bilston Market which was referred to more than once as Spike informs us his entire stage gear was from it and a local shouts out about bumping into him in Morrisons regularly!
Normally acoustic gigs are quite sedate performance wise with musicians tending to keep their stools warm but Spike can’t keep still and is frequently moving from standing to sitting depending on the tempo of a song and gesticulating and performing like he’s got a full locked and loaded band behind him. His other half’s family were in for the show and obviously this made for some mickey taking and light heartedness, and even led to Paul encouraging Spike into singing his mother in law’s (to be) name instead of ‘Sweet Mary Ann’.
It’s hard to pick highlights as I enjoyed the evening as a whole and if anything the acoustic format highlighted some of the lyrical aspects of some of their songs. Yes they are a party band but some of their lyrics are extremely emotional and deep and it garnered a renewed respect from me tonight as song writers even though it’s well past 7 O’clock and the party is in full swing!
Amongst the set list were ‘Bite The Hand That Feeds’, ‘Beautiful Curse’, ‘There She Goes Again’, ’27 Years’, ‘Whippin Boy’, ‘Pretty Girls’ dedicated to the ladies of Bilston! ‘Chain Smokin’, ‘Mother Mary’, ‘Sweet Mary Ann’, ‘Misled’, ‘7 O’clock’ and the solitary encore of ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’
A fabulous live act who just makes you want to have a good time and get your drink on! It’s great to see them rejuvenated and extremely active at the moment not only live but in the studio as well and after the wonderful ‘Beautiful Curse’ I’m hoping for more of the same from ‘XXX’ later in the year. I’m very much looking forward to rocking with the band later in this year, but I’m drinking this time!
…..and no I ain’t fooking going to see Billy Ocean…..
See more of Lisa’s photos here;