Status Quo/Wilko Johnson - London, Hammersmith, Eventim Apollo - 29th March 2014 Print E-mail
Written by Jim Rowland   
Tuesday, 15 April 2014 03:00

Quo 3

 

I first saw Status Quo at their ‘farewell’ show at Milton Keynes Bowl back in 1984. By then John Coghlan had been gone for a few years, but Alan Lancaster was still there. From what I remember, it was a great show, but the likes of ‘Marguerita Time’, ‘In the Army Now’ and ‘Anniversary Waltz’ did little to keep my interest in the ‘Quo Lite’ version of the band in the following years. The incredible run of ‘70s albums they made from ‘Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon’ to ‘Whatever You Want’ though have always kept my interest, so last year’s Frantic Four reunion shows were a must for me – an opportunity to see the four individuals who made all those albums back together. In fact so impressed was I with the first of the two Hammersmith shows they did, that I went back for more of the same on the second night. They were simply scorching, and I bet the Quo had not received a reaction like that for many years. More of the same is what I’m back for tonight as well.

 

Wilko Johnson is someone I’ve never seen, and let’s be honest, I’m not going to get many more chances. Having developed a real taste for Dr. Feelgood’s back catalogue in recent years, I left for tonight’s gig in good time to catch Wilko’s set. What I didn’t account for though was London Transport’s knack of completely fucking up their service at weekends with track works, so as the minutes tick away to the start of Wilko’s set, I’m stuck in ‘heavy traffic’ (ouch!) on a replacement bus service between Acton and Hammersmith, thus only getting there in time for the last 25 minutes of Wilko, sliding in to an already packed Apollo. What a 25 minutes it is though. More than ably supported by the truly sublime bass skills of Blockhead Norman Watt-Roy, Wilko is fabulous as he rips through Feelgood classics like ‘Don’t Let Your Daddy Know’, ‘Back In The Night’ and ‘She Does It Right’. He’s on sparkling form and there honestly doesn’t look like there’s anything wrong with him at all. Hang on in there Wilko!

 

Quo 1As for Quo, more of the same is what I said I came for, and it’s what I get, as the set is almost identical to last year’s. They look slightly different with Francis Rossi sporting a grey beard ‘to make him look more mature’ as the youngest member of the band, and Rick Parfitt having discarded the short, smart hairstyle of last year, for the grown-out shoulder length mop of yesteryear, and what a wonderfully full bodied mop he has for a man of his vintage! As before, Alan Lancaster leads the vocals for ‘Junior’s Wailing’, ‘Backwater’ and ‘Just Take Me’ before Rossi takes charge of frontman duties. ‘Is There A Better Way’ is still crackingly heavy, as is ‘Little Lady’, and Parfitt is still in fine voice for ‘Rain’. It’s two of the oldest songs in the set that are as good as anything for me though. ‘Ma Kellys’ ‘April, Spring, Summer and Wednesdays’ was a real surprise this time last year, and obviously less of a surprise this time round, but no less delightful, and ‘Railroad’ is just a great head nodding rocker. ‘Forty Five Hundred Times’ and ‘Big Fat Mama’ are deliciously heavy classic Quo, as is ‘Down, Down’, possibly the heaviest song to ever be number one, although Francis seems a bit uncomfortable with his guitar tuning throughout this rendition. ‘Roadhouse Blues’, not my favourite moment from the old Quo (or the old Doors for that matter) thankfully doesn’t go on for hours.

 

The encore does spring a genuine surprise. There are of course a few obvious old Quo classics that were noticeable by their absence last time, and raised a few eyebrows. ‘Paper Plane’, ‘Roll Over Lay Down’ and ‘Caroline’ were the obvious ones, and none were expected this time round because of it, but there is sheer delight in the audience as the band return to the stage and launch into the familiar opening chords to ‘Caroline’. It’s a better choice than last year’s ‘Don’t Waste My Time’ and the icing on the cake before ‘Bye Bye Johnny’ signals the end of the show, and for me, probably the end of the Quo. I say that because I doubt we will see the Frantic Four back again, and I’m sure as hell not going to see ‘Quo Lite’ any time soon.

 

To say I’m glad the original four, the frantic four, the REAL QUO, patched up their differences and gave us a chance to see them is an understatement. It’s been an honour and a pleasure to see this line-up, one of the greatest rock ’n’ roll bands the UK has ever produced. There’s always going to be a difference of opinion between people, like myself, who want the old Quo, the heavy Quo, and the prawn sandwich brigade that prefer their Quo on the lighter side of life. But much like KISS with Ace and Peter, would Quo be able to be a full time going concern on a permanent basis with the old line-up? Perhaps not, and perhaps that’s why there’s a different version of the band doing the lion’s share of the shows. I’m just grateful to Francis and Rick for giving those of us not quite old enough to have seen the Frantic Four first time round the chance to do so. Noddy Holder and Slade take note – do it before it’s too late!

 

Photographs courtesy of Noel Buckley; http://www.noelbuckleyimages.co.uk/

 

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