Review and photos by Rich Ward
Given the track record for weather over bank holiday weekends, an outdoor festival might have been approached with a little trepidation. However, a bill featuring Status Quo and Wilko Johnson at the Oxfordshire Kingston House Estate made for a tempting excursion, and all those who made the effort were rewarded with a glorious afternoon of sunshine and an excellent evening of rock ‘n’ roll.
The music got under way with Circuit 68, a band from the North East who come across as an accomplished pub rock band, with a variety of musical influences on display from 60s rock to edgier heavy material. While there was nothing ground breaking or exceptional, as an opening act they were perfect in being able to appeal to the crowd which saw plenty of people dancing and taking part in their sing-a-longs, creating a nice relaxed vibe.
Next up was Wilko Johnson, whose well documented cancer survival story and his part in Game Of Thrones have helped raise his profile lately. It’s great to have him still here and he deservedly receives a very warm welcome to the stage as he almost immediately launches into ‘Alright’ with his trademark stage strut and wide glare ever present. The early inclusion of short and punchy Dr Feelgood numbers of ‘Roxette’, ‘Going Back Home’ and ‘Sneakin’ Suspicion’ sound excellent and go down well with Norman Watt-Roy providing some serious groove and visuals stage left. ‘Everybody Is Carrying A Gun’ loses a little momentum with its elongated bass and drum solo; while this may go down well in a smaller club, as a support, it seems a little misplaced. It’s quickly brought back though with ‘Back In The Night’, and the main set finale of ‘She Does It Right’ receives a rapturous response sufficient enough to secure an encore with Chuck Berry’s ‘Bye Bye Johnny’. Unfortunately this is also drawn out and loses some impact as a result, and you can’t help but think two shorter numbers would have been a better bet. On the whole, though, a very enjoyable set.
While the event was generally very well organised, there was a knock on effect of more punters arriving on the day than anticipated which resulted in long queues for the toilets, food offers running out quickly and even the real ale casks ran dry before then end of Wilko’s set.
After a relatively short set change, the intro tape starts running and Status Quo take the stage. Rick Parfitt assumes position in front of a bank of white Marshalls and starts hammering out the intro chords to ‘Caroline’, Rossi picks up the riff and then the bass and drums kick in providing the thunderous rhythm and an electric atmosphere. Whatever your opinion on the band over the years, there’s no denying that this remains one of the greatest starts to a live show period. The heavy 70s period is covered early in the set with ‘Rain’, ‘Little Lady’ and a medley featuring ‘Big Fat Mama’ and ‘Again and Again’. ‘The Wanderer’ and ‘Something Bout You Baby I Like’ also get the crowd singing along.
Tonight is also a special night for Francis Rossi as he is celebrating a birthday. The festival organisers have even arranged a huge card to recognise this and were inviting the fans to sign it and leave their own personal messages. Although with the clear skies Rossi is feeling the cold and apologises early on for racing through the set.
The mid section of the show highlights some of the more diverse songs from their career; the recent somewhat peculiar sounding ‘Oriental’, and the acoustic eastern inflections of ‘Gerdundula’ for which drummer Leon Cave comes to the front of the stage to play “to show him off because his family are in the audience” explains Rossi. It proves to be an unexpected highlight.
Following a drum solo / pee break, they’re back down to business at the heavy end of things with a glorious ‘Roll Over Lay Down’, ‘Down Down’ and also ‘Junior’s Wailing’ getting a welcome airing. The 90 minute show concludes with an encore of ‘Rock And Roll Music’ and, for the second time tonight, ‘Bye Bye Johnny’.
The Quo have announced that 2016 will be their last year for electric tours, but the energy that still remains on the stage, I wouldn’t be surprised if they still do the occasional dates like this. We may have had 32 more years since their first farewell, but it would be a shame if 2016 really was the End Of The Road for this magnificent institution.