“Status Quo: Britain’s most underrated rock band”
says Michael Hann, The Guardian, 31 March 2014.
For fans like me who followed the original line-up live in the 70s and early 80s this isn’t news but its great to see a Quo finally getting the recognition they deserve for their early work.
In March this year I returned to that London mecca of rock’n’roll the Hammersmith Odeon to see the original line up (Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt, Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan) play again for their second, final reunion tour. Would they be as good as they were last year? Or was lead guitarist and founder member Francis Rossi right and I had I been seduced by a wave of nostalgia ? He’d upset his fans even more by publicly saying that the 2013 gigs weren’t very good! Had we all got cloth ears then?
Well much to my amazement Mr Rossi was correct because they were 100% better this year. To use some wonderful 70s words they were marvellous, tremendous, magic and terrific. There were lovely extra details like a riff I’d never heard before in In My Chair. Blue Eyed Lady which I didn’t enjoy last year was excellent on this tour because they band had nailed it. Rain and Caroline sounded right once more. And they played again with real love and that chemistry they always had. This was beyond nostalgia, they were mature musos playing those tracks in a way that reflected that experience.
The set list was pretty much the same as last year with some minor improvements. setlist.fm credit it here. They dropped Don’t Waste My Time and added their hit single Caroline to the encore. Rain was moved to a better place in the set, after the mournful Most of the Time, which got us bouncing again. And they extended the hardcore fans favourite, Forty-five Hundred Times to 8 minutes and incorporated some of the original song which it evolved from in the early 70s, Gotta Go Home. For aficionados of Quo, we were in heaven.
Quo were never and out and out heavy metal band. They gave us music to dance and boogie to by mixing rhythms and riffs which contained celtic tunes, rock riffs, blues shuffles and military drum tattoos. These are the sounds from their early albums rather than their hit singles which are more widely known.
The Quo Army
That first gig I was deep in the crowd near the front. During the second gig, I stood further back to see the band more clearly. On both nights the fans sang and boogied all night. I’ve never experienced anything like it at other gigs. On this tour there were many younger fans and children, in amongst the older generations reliving their youth. And everyone was so friendly. At the first gig, during Caroline this guy turned to me and politely took my hand on the line, ‘take my hand, together we can rock and roll’. On the second night I met some serious heavy rockers who gave me the best air guitar lesson of my life.
And the band lapped up our fevered enjoyment. Rick Parfitt prowled the front of the stage like a tiger. Alan Lancaster sang with his wonderful soulful voice and kept the rhythm with the mighty John Coghlan pounding away on drums. The invisible 5th member Bob Young appeared and disappeared to play the harmonica on Railroad and Roadhouse Blues. And Francis Rossi, the true professional that he is, rose to the occasion and showed what a fabulous lead blues guitarist he is.
Wedged amongst the Quo Army down at the front on Friday night, singing our hearts out, these two sets of lyrics resonated for me at that first gig.
From Forty-five Hundred Times, the lines,
“We came a long way, a slow way too
Up from the down way and back to you
Now that I’ve made it I don’t want to fade it
Now that I’ve made it with you.” (Rossi/Parfitt)
And later, during Big Fat Mama, these lines from the final chorus,
“I said say you need me
Come on and say you need me I said say you need me.” (Rossi/Parfitt)
The band and the fans were reunited. Without us, and our heartfelt participation they never play like this. The animosity post the 84 split had vanished. They played with a passion to match ours. And we were toe-to-toe with their every note and move.
Reminiscing with fans
I took time on Saturday to hang out and meet other fans to share the joy. Hearing their stories of following the band was special. And only a fellow Quo fan can understand when you say that seeing Alan and John back on stage with Rick and Francis makes sense.
I met at least four sets of fans that had stopped following the band in either the late 70s or early 80s, who had come to see if they were any good again. One chap sidled over to where we were chatting and said he hadn’t seen them since ‘81. “Are they any good now?” “They’re okay.” I said, unable to resist a wind-up and his face fell. And then I told him they were amazing and the joy in his smile was magic.
Stated Quo at The Distillers
As you’ll have gathered, Quo fans are often an intense bunch and there is no thing as too much Quo music. And many gathered at the Distillers pub to hear tribute band Stated Quo. I went along to find out what that experience was like too. I couldn’t see the band as the bar was rammed by the time I arrived. But what I heard sounded like the real thing. And I enjoyed hearing other old tracks which I knew weren’t going to be played that evening.
When you look through the gallery below you’ll wonder why I have taken a photo of piece of paper on the floor which says JIG. In the olden days, during the track Roadhouse Blues, Quo used to get the whole audience dancing to an Irish jig but the band hadn’t played it during this reunion tour. So we held up posters to see if they would. But they didn’t. And it was okay. They nearly did.
And after the gig, this fan was so elated he picked up the JIG poster from the floor and slapped it on his head. And was delighted to pose for a picture.
Wilko Johnson – the icing on the cake
When Quo announced that Wilko was supporting them, I couldn’t believe my luck. I don’t quite understand why I’d never discovered his music until recently but once I heard Back in the Night on Youtube, I wanted to hear more. And so seeing his band (Wilko, Norman Watts bass, Dylan Howe, drums) play twice as support was truly the icing on the cake for a great weekend of rock’n’roll. What a legend and inspiration.
Is this really it for the Frantic Four?
Yesterday, the original line up of Quo, now distinguished from the current line up as the Frantic Four played their final gig in Dublin before 14000 people. They have said they will never play again. Its hard to believe when they sound this good and are so obviously enjoying playing together again. I did shed a tear at the second gig during the encore of Bye Bye Johnny, believing that it could be true. But if they decide to play again or issue another album, I will be there like a shot. Thanks for some amazing music and fabulous live entertainment.
The gallery this week is to share my love of the fans. There are hundreds of pictures of the band online but far fewer to celebrate the magnificent Quo Army who have rewarded the band with a loyal, passionate turnout to these gigs over the last four weeks. I also spotted a few more ice cream vans. Regular followers of my blog will know I featured a summer photo project about them last year.