Status Quo, Brighton Centre | New music reviews, news & interviews
Status Quo, Brighton Centre
The perennial 12-bar blues rockers lay on a pre-Christmas treat
It is quite a sight to see your children doing the heads down Quo boogie but, by the time the band reach “Whatever You Want”, that is exactly where my daughters, aged 14 and nine, are at. The rest of the Brighton Centre, not sold out but respectably full, is on its feet too. Just beside us a well-preserved man of around 70 is going completely bananas, shirt open, sweat pouring off. The majority of the crowd are in their sixties, perhaps even their late sixties, but by this stage of the gig a good portion of their decorum has been thrown to the wind in favour of shimmying like sassy teenagers in a biker bar.
I took my daughters along as a pre-Christmas treat, their first gig (although they’ve been to many festivals) because the Quo feel like a family affair. The tour is entitled Quofestive which sounds like an all-ages event, a pantomime even. Sure, next summer they’re touring their “Frantic Four” classic Seventies line-up, but tonight’s band is venerable enough, core Quo members Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt alongside keyboard player Andrew Bown, a member since 1976, and bass player John Edwards, a member since 1985. Only drummer Matt Letley could claim to be a new boy, having joined in 2000.
They arrive onstage and dive straight into “Caroline”. My girls may not be Quo fans but have done plenty of “Quomework” over the last week, the better to enjoy the night, so sing along from the start. The stage set is made up of a bright LED backdrop but the focus is the band. Rossi’s iconic ponytail may be long gone and Parfitt’s blond shag is shortened but there’s no mistaking that choreographed, legs-apart guitar-playing.
Quo will always be pariahs with the hipsters. Not that they give a damn
They burst through a few more songs, the chugging rhythm seldom changing a jot but the atmosphere slowly rising, then Rossi tells us he’s just been to a toilet in the Brighton Centre which Margaret Thatcher once used - "She took all the toilet paper". He remains one of pop’s most jovial figures and, as they attack “Rock’n’Roll’n’You”, a recent number but typical Quo fare, it occurs that they're a band that has much in common with The Ramones and Motörhead, outfits that do one thing very well, in Quo’s case bar-room blues boogie. However, where The Ramones and Motörhead have slowly gained a cache of cool, Status Quo, by dint of their bloke-in-the-pub geniality and willingness to cheerfully embrace light entertainment and naffness (such as recording a single with preposterous German gabber-popsters Scooter) will always be pariahs with the hipsters. Not that they give a damn. As if to prove their easy-going attitude to such matters and general Spinal Tap-ness, they do a song medley and then plunge into the dubious “The Oriental” which opens with the couplet “Her name was Mia/From North Korea”. Then again, the set continues and they bite into a tougher blues rock with Bown playing a mean harmonica on “Creepin’ Up on You”.
I admit a sing-along weakness overtook me for the ridiculously middle-of-the-road “Margarita Time”, then mid-set comes the anomaly that is “In the Army Now”, a non-bluesy Eighties pop nugget and a song which I discovered over previous days is impossible, once heard, to shake from the brain. Unexpectedly, it often wasn’t the poppier material my daughters liked, but the heavier fare. Sucking on Fanta and eating jelly babies, their hair flailed everywhere for “Roll Over Lay Down”, and I’d forgotten “Down Down” was such an absolute belter of a headbanger.
There are strobes and there's even a witty drum solo, if you can believe it, but it is, of course, the final pairing of “Whatever You Want” and “Rockin’ All Over the World” that slays us. From nine years old to 70-something, the Quo have us eating out of the palm of their hand as we fill the Brighton Centre with the roared conviction that “I like it, I like it, I like it, I la-la-la-like it”. It is the peak of the night. They return for a cheesy Christmas medley – “Winter Wonderland” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas tree”, definitely one for the kids (who sing along) and close with their own Christmas non-hit (well, it made 40) “It’s Christmas Time”. They then leave the stage triumphantly waving to us as the single version plays from their lines of Marshall amps.
My 14-year-old’s friends greeted her news that she was off to see the Quo with a withering “It could be worse”, but this band who had their first hit when The Beatles were busy making “Yellow Submarine” put on a show of conviction that affably, apparently effortlessly, amalgamates hoky fun with ramped-up riffage, and it was clearly enjoyed hugely by all ages.
Status Quo play a storming "Down Down" at Glastonbury 2009
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