Review by Paul H Birch and photos by Robert Sutton
Zig-zagging across the war zone that the never-ending second city’s roadworks have become; security informs us we’re well in time and the show won’t start for another half-hour. Much as this backs up the communications made earlier in the day, within minutes we’re confronted by Troy Redfern and his band already blasting through a rendition of ‘Voodoo Chile’ that’s being played out like a big brassy Blue Cheer with a hard-on and added psychedelic and eastern scaled textures. It’s all bathed in ever shifting coloured lights, and is mightily impressive. What’s not, is that this is their last number.
I caught Redfern solo, just him and an electric guitar, as a last-minute support to The Sweet over at the Town Hall late last year, and I was keen to see how he transferred working under a power trio format. Albeit with not much to go on, but from the crowd’s applause, pretty good. He’s due for guest slots on several tours over the coming year, so one way or another his is a name that’s going to become ever more familiar.
Dressed like a bald Dennis the Menace, a cockney sounding geezer comes on stage to play master of ceremonies, and we’re now informed in no uncertain terms it’s time to party with The Quireboys.
A vintage Chuck Berry lick burns down as intro, a second guitar joining in as we prepare to rock down and hands are soon hung high clapping away as Spike tells us “I Love This Dirty Town”.
On stage there’s a generalised approach towards rag-taggle gypsy attire that includes single-breasted jackets, scarves and, oddly, bowler hats. With a younger rhythm section holding to the backline and pianist Keith Weir tucked in a corner, it allows the front man enough rope to dance, prance and swing his microphone a la Rod the Mod, and Messrs Mogg and Rogers with much gusto. Guy Griffin who signed on for A Bit Of What You Fancy over 30 years ago is one side of the stage, and Paul Guerin across the way, standing in front of mics ready to handle backing vocals, while they rock this one to its conclusion.
More numbers follow in fast succession. The broader chorded ‘Misled’ finds a sweet pocket groove after its mid-point piano solo while the hard strut approach is taken for ‘Man On The Loose’, both guitarists blasting away until a slower section ensues, and the crowd again raise their hands in the air, this time waving their arms from side to side.
This club date was jam-packed when we got here, more have come since our arrival (an awful lot of couples), and they’re going to spend the night singing many a chorus loudly, clapping along, and raising plastic pint glasses aloft in response to Spike cheering them on. He appears happy as a pig in the proverbial, his band mates affecting a mean and moody pose but betraying the odd raised smile at the crowd’s applause when a number finishes.
Having been to gigs where the band didn’t know what county they were in, let alone the city, and as one of the great unwashed down the Odeon when Dave Lee Roth declared “I hear y’all the rock and roll capital of the world!” when supporting Sabbath, just as he’d said at every date on that 10th Anniversary Tour, tonight I think Spike deserves a reward for the number of times he name-checked Birmingham over the expanse of the evening. Asking where people had travelled from, he also got a big call out for Wolverhampton, and likewise a contingent from Bilston, where he makes his own home these days, and he calls on them specifically to sing along to hit single ‘Hey You’, but the crowd ignore him and they all join in.
Truth to tell, the power behind the frontman’s voice can be hit and miss, and a little strangulated in the mix at times, but when he hits the right spot there’s a fine rasp that swims warmly across a melody and begins to punch harder near the closure of the set, when you’d think he’d be worn out.
While I try to get my head round how one section of ‘Hey You’ seemed to echo the J. Geils Band’s ‘Centrefold’, the crowd are “whoah-whoahing” away to ‘There She Goes Again’ and I’m soon trying to consider how much a wide-eyed tall story the song is… I do all this, based on past experience, having chosen to forgo the overpriced vinegar they call alcohol in this here establishment. Meanwhile, the song ends with an impressive big fuck-you type ending.
Snazzy drums peppered with some rolling piano take us in a different direction, then guitars cut and slice over a laconic sultry blues figure, bordering on a British brand of gospel, for a sensual reading of ‘Whippin’ Boy’. Drums again kick in big for ‘Long Time Comin’’ that rocks and rolls in a place where The Faces mix it up with the Nigel Benjamin-fronted Mott. While Spike shakes his ass for us as he shimmies across the back of the stage, our six-string wranglers facing off each other bleeding out their licks.
Back up the front, Spike delivers the opening lines of ‘Roses & Rings’ with conviction, a folk rocking number that turns into something of a gentle epic with an unexpected guitar solo crying out near the end. That it’s eclipsed by ‘I Don’t love You Anymore’ where the audience get even louder and more emotional, is some feat.
Following a piano rocking ‘Sweet Mary Ann’ and ‘Take Me Home’ showing no let up in steam, a harmonica is produced from the now jacket-less singer and we’re into ‘7 O’ Clock’ that’s delivered with energy and lot of bounce. “God bless ya, I’ll see you at the bar!” Spike calls out as they head towards the song’s conclusion, but this proves to be something of a premature announcement.
The Quireboys return ostensibly to encore, but it’s like they’ve had a shot of testosterone because they deliver a lengthy batch of tunes pumped up, high on energy, delivered with the enthusiastic gusto of young whippersnappers out to prove their worth.
Our host asks his audience’s age. One bloke proudly raised his hand at being in the thirty-age bracket, but most cop for another twenty years’ service, Spike jokes that surely that can’t be true. There are no spring chickens here, but they’re all hale and hearty.
‘Mona Lisa Smiled’ appeals in a tight but loose manner, and following a near cappella intro of ‘Amazing Grace’ we surge into ‘Original Black-Eyed Son’ – It swaggers with a bluesy rocking groove and proves a personal highlight of the evening, the anthemic statement of conviction that is ‘This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll’ follows hot in its wake, and following requests during the night the set ends with ‘Sex Party’, guitars squealing merrily away towards a well-timed ejaculation.
Somewhere across the other side of the globe a bigshot pop singer has just cancelled a Las Vegas cabaret show, for reasons that thus far appear convoluted and will undoubtedly prove costly insurance wise. Meanwhile, unperturbed by having had to constantly postpone a 30th anniversary tour due to covid, and no doubt suffered financially due to it, five Quireboys have just put in a cracking performance, playing like there’s everything to live for and putting the kind of smile on fans’ faces that no amount of money can buy.
- I Love This Dirty Town
- Man On The Loose
- Hey You
- There She Goes Again
- Whippin’ Boy
- Long Time Comin’
- Roses & Rings
- I Don’t love You Anymore
- Sweet Mary Ann
- Take Me Home
- 7 O’ Clock
- Mona Lisa Smiled
- Amazing Grace/Original Black-Eyed Son
- This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll
- Sex Party