Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Quireboys - Birmingham Review

It is safe to say that The Quireboys have become one of my very favourite bands over the past few years. Despite having many opportunities to catch them live over the years, it was a support slot with Saxon in 2013 that finally turned me on to just how good The Quireboys are live and I have not looked back since. They must be one of the hardest working bands in rock, which is why this particular show in Birmingham was my ninth Quireboys show since that 2013 introduction. Whether it is in their stripped-down four piece acoustic mode, or the 'proper' six-piece rock version, The Quireboys always deliver and that is why I now take every opportunity I can to see them. This current, extensive, UK tour is in support of their latest album Twisted Love which was released last year. Twisted Love is the band's fourth album in as many years and is clear that the band are having something of a second wind. After years of line-up changes the band seems to have found relative stability with the current six members of the full band and this new-found chemistry has certainly led to some very powerful live shows. Birmingham's Asylum venue is a new one for me. I had previously been to the smaller Asylum 2, which is upstairs in the same building, but this was my first visit to the main room. It was much bigger than I was expecting and it proved to be a decent venue, with a good-sized stage and a decent sound system. While there was a good crowd in the place by the time The Quireboys hit the stage around 9pm, it seems very few people made the effort came down early to check the support bands. The opening band played to a pitifully small crowd, and the second band fared somewhat better but it certainly could have been better. I will never know why so many people often come down deliberately late to miss the support bands, as sometimes there are some real gems to be found.

The majority of the crowd missed out, as both of the support acts put on enjoyable displays. Souls of Tide from Norway were up first and played through around half an hour of retro-sounding hard rock with plenty of Hammond organ! In fact, it was the band's keyboardist that really stole the show for me and he added lots of the band's traditional hard rock sound. One of the song towards the end of their set featured an instrumental section which saw the lead guitarist and the keyboardist trading licks and leads with each other, which was really fun to see. The songs were not as catchy as they could have been, but there was certainly a lot to enjoy during Souls of Tide's set and it is just a shame that not more people were there to see it.

A modest crowd had gathered by the time Last Great Dreamers came on stage, and it seemed that most in attendance were already familiar with the band. After a little research, it transpires the band had some success in the mid-1990s before breaking up and reforming a few years ago to tour and record a second album. The band were instantly likeable, playing a form of catchy power-pop that went down well with the crowd - fans and newcomers. Their sound was like a mix of Cheap Trick and Hanoi Rocks but with a strong London influence. The songs were full of energy, bristling with attitude, put packed full of catchy pop melodies and guitar leads from Slyder (guitar/vocals). Frontman Marc Valentine was the band's focal point however in his bowler hat and sporting a rather lovely white Telecaster. His slightly punky voice helped to add an edge to the material. I enjoyed most of the songs that they played, especially the high-energy closing anthem Dope School so I will be investigating their two albums in the near future.

People were slowly filing in during Last Great Dreamers' set, and by the time The Quireboys took to the stage there was a healthy amount of people packed into The Asylum. The title track of the new album Twisted Love opened the show, an the band showed a little more restraint that usual out of the blocks with the Hammond-drenched bluesy number that really showcases the raspy vocals of frontman and founding member Spike. Any thoughts that this show might be lacking in the classic Quireboys energy are soon dispelled however when another newer number, Too Much of a Good Thing, follows with the loose guitar interplay of Guy Griffin and Paul Guerin really taking centre stage. This opening combo works really well, and Too Much of a Good Thing provides the first real sing along of the night as the crowd help Spike and the boys to belt out the raw chorus. Despite including a couple of new numbers tonight, the band stuck to their tried and tested live favourites for the most part, with both Misled and There She Goes Again - both from the band's debut album - going down a storm early on. Sometimes I do wish the band would be a little more adventurous with their setlists, but it is hard to argue with their choice to play many of the same songs night after night when you see the reactions from the crowd! The bullish strut of Gracie B was a welcome addition to the set and the grinding blues song is different from the usual riff-driven Quireboys sound and features an absolute stunning Spike vocal. Spike was on fine form throughout the night, joking with the fans and band between songs, throwing his microphone stand around in his own inimitable way, and singing the whole set with that cheeky, schoolboy smile that rarely leaves his face. The gorgeous Mona Lisa Smiled is always a highlight of the band's sets, and it really hit the spot here, before another new number Breaking Rocks really took hold with a strong blues groove underpinned by a tight Nick Mailing bassline. The last third of the main set was packed full of classics. Tramps and Thieves is always a showcase for Griffin's slide guitar skills, and the poignant ballad I Don't Love You Anymore sees Keith Weir (keyboards/vocals) take the spotlight with his piano playing. Sandwiched between the two, bona fide hit Hey You really gets the crowd going and you can hear the voices of the crowd about the noise from the band at many points throughout the song. Spike's 'country honk' of Sweet Mary Ann, which sees more noise from the crowd during the noiseless vocal sections, and the band's signature song 7 O'Clock round out a triumphant set and the band leave the stage to rapturous applause. The band still had plenty of time, so a three-song encore followed. I Love This Dirty Town got this lap of honour started with it's grubby, anthemic barroom rock stylings, before the piano-driven White Trash Blues really stole the show. This is a song I have been wanting to hear live for quite some time, and I was so pleased that they decided to include this in the set in Birmingham and it was easily the song of the night for me! The sleazy Sex Party brought the evening to a close and those in attendance were once again reminded why The Quireboys are one of the best live rock 'n' roll bands on the circuit currently. The setlist was:

Twisted Love
Too Much of a Good Thing
There She Goes Again
Gracie B
This is Rock 'n' Roll
Mona Lisa Smiled
Breaking Rocks
Tramps and Thieves
Hey You
I Don't Love You Anymore
Roses & Rings
Sweet Mary Ann
7 O'Clock
I Love This Dirty Town
White Trash Blues
Sex Party

Overall this was another stunning live display of rock 'n' roll from one of the country's best bands. Luckily I do not have to wait too long for my tenth Quireboys show, as I will be catching them, along with FM and Gun, at Castell Roc in Chepstow in August. I am already looking forward to that eagerly!

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