Monday, 19 December 2016

The Quireboys - Rushden Review

Last March, a spur of the moment decision to head from Luton to Rushden after a football match to catch The Quireboys perform an acoustic show made for an unforgettable night. As a result, the opportunity to head back to Rushden from Birmingham the day after the Status Quo concert there was a no-brainer, but this trip was better planned with accommodation secured just outside the town. The Quireboys are one of the best live rock 'n' roll bands on the circuit and while they are known for their high-energy electric rock shows, their stripped-down acoustic shows are not to be missed either. The band's simple, catchy songs work well acoustically, and the more relaxed format allows for a more fluid setlist and plenty of banter between the band and the audience. This was also my last gig of the year, capping off an excellent year of live music that started off in Sheffield with COP UK way back in January. It seems fitting that two smaller shows should bookend the year, as it shows that live music is about far more than just the big-name acts in stadiums, and shows the places and experiences that following smaller bands can take you to! The Athletic Club in Rushden is a strange venue, which takes up the first floor of a Working Men's Club just a short walk from the town's main drag. I think it is fair to say that Rushden is not the most exciting town in the UK, but plenty of people took the opportunity to see The Quireboys rock out at the Athletic Club. It is always great to see a smaller show so well attended, but then again The Quireboys are veterans of the touring circuit and their reputation precedes them.

Before The Quireboys' set however, the crowd was treated to a couple of support acts who both also performed acoustic sets. Leicester's The Midnight Dogs were first, and played around half an hour of enjoyable, up-tempo acoustic rock. While I was unfamiliar with the band, their music suited the acoustic format of the evening and they managed to whip up quite a storm with the growing crowd. Despite not being hugely original, the band impressed with frontman Rob Cass in particular standing out with his powerful voice and strong stage presence. The Midnight Dogs certainly made their presence on the bill felt, and they seemed to make a few new fans in the process with a few CDs from their merchandise stand being snapped up.

Sweden's The Gloria Story, the main tour support, were up next and delivered another half an hour or so of acoustic rock. The band were stripped down from their usual line-up, with only three members on stage including a female backing singer. Despite a few good songs, I found them less engaging than The Midnight Dogs. The simple sound with only two acoustic guitars (and sometimes a drum machine) just did not resonate with me like the full band sound of the previous act, and overall I felt that they fell a little flat. There was a good cover of Kiss' C'mon and Love Me thrown in however, which was nice, and they did not outstay their welcome which was also good.

The Quireboys have been treading the boards for over 30 years now, but these fairly regular acoustic shows are a relatively new addition to their touring schedules. The acoustic vibe does not suit all bands, but it works for The Quireboys and allows them to play different songs than they usually would in their full band electric shows. They also have one of the best frontmen in the business, the bandana-wearing Spike, and the acoustic format allows him to talk to the crowd more and tell some of his funny rock 'n' roll stories. Three songs from the band's acclaimed debut album A Bit of What you Fancy started off the evening, with There She Goes Again and Misled proving to be hits from the off. Both are huge crowd-pleasers, and the choruses of both were sung with gusto by the large crowd. Certain songs, like the laid-back Devil of a Man are only played on the band's acoustic shows, so it worth turning up to hear these back catalogue gems wheeled out. Mona Lisa Smiled is always one of the highlights of any Quireboys show, and it was no different in Rushden. Paul Guerin (guitar/vocals) even manages to play the solo on his acoustic, something that is not always as easy as it seems, and the whole thing went down a storm. While the band's latest album Twisted Love was promoted from the stage, Spike explained that they chose not to showcase any of it on this tour, waiting to play the songs properly on their full electric tour next year. I understand the decision, but I feel the ballad Midnight Collective would have fitted perfectly into this set! The only newer song played in Rishden was Beautiful Curse, the title track of their 2013 album, which works perfectly stripped down. It has one of the band's most infectious choruses, and there were plenty in the crowd singing along despite the song not being one of the band's true classics. A real surprise came in the form of Last Time, from the band's second album Bitter Sweet & Twisted, that received a rare live outing. Not many songs from that album regularly feature in the band's sets, which is a shame as it is full of cracking tunes, so it was a treat to hear this beautiful ballad. Guerin's mandolin-style guitar leads really fit with Spike's vocals, and the song was well received. Two more real classics brought the set to an end, with the band's most famous song 7 O'Clock bringing the house down with the usually reserved Guy Griffin (guitar/vocals) belting out the wordless backing vocals with gusto. There was time for one more, and the ballad I Don't Love You Anymore was the perfect encore. Keith Weir's (keyboards/vocals) piano melodies were perfect, and Spike really gave it his all to deliver one of their best songs with a huge emotional punch to bring their final gig of the year to an end. The setlist was:

There She Goes Again
Roses & Rings
Devil of a Man
Mona Lisa Smiled
Beautiful Curse
Whippin' Boy
Have a Drink With Me [Spike solo material]
Hates to Please
Last Time
Sweet Mary Ann
7 O'Clock
I Don't Love You Anymore

You can always rely on The Quireboys for a cracking evening of live music, and they rounded out my gigging year in style. Unfortunately however, there were a few in the crowd who thought it was a goo idea to talk throughout the show, which did hamper my enjoyment of some of the quieter moments. I still do not understand why people come to gigs and choose to do this, it is something that really annoys me! It did not ruin the evening however, and a chance to see one of my favourite live bands will always see me leaving with a smile on my face. I will be seeing the band again in April, this time plugged in and with a rhythm section, in Birmingham where I look forward to hearing some of the Twisted Love material live.

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