Saturday, 17 December 2016

Status Quo - Three-Chord Stalwarts Sign Off With a Wallop - First Direct Arena, Leeds, 17.12.16.

Four songs in, and Francis Rossi, the sharply dressed frontman of Status Quo, is already removing his waistcoat, wiping firstly his brow and then his crotch with the garment in question. He looks at it for a moment, then shrugs and throws it over his shoulder. “I’ve got that feeling of going too far,” he quips. When a member of the audience heckles him, his response is succinct and good-natured: “Shut yer gob!”
Status Quo performing live in London in December
2016. (Credit to Andrew Fosker.)

Succinct and good-natured is a pretty good way to describe the Quo. The three-chord stalwarts have made a half-century long career out of music that is direct and to the point; no-nonsense, in-your-face, chunky rock-and-roll, with all the fat shaved off. Thirty-two albums in, and they show no sign of stopping, though ostensibly, they are slowing down. Their show at the First Direct Arena in Leeds is part of what is being billed as an electric full-band farewell tour, with Rossi having announced that the group will switch to acoustic shows only. Indeed, with Rossi the only original member left following Rick Parfitt’s retirement after a heart attack in the summer, the question lingers whether Quo have a future beyond their immediate slate of dates.

Rossi obviously hasn’t got the memo about signing off quietly; from the ferocious Caroline to the driving, pounding Something ‘Bout You Baby I Like, Quo’s lead guitarist delivers brusque, taut riffs that shake the foundations around him. His voice remains in excellent shape, fifty years on – and in Parfitt’s absence, long-term bassist John “Rhino” Edwards and keyboard player Andy Brown ably fill his vocal cues. Indeed, Rossi does not even mention his founding partner all night; and touring replacement Richie Malone, referred to as “Paddy” by the frontman, ably fills the big guitar licks required on songs such as The Wanderer and Rain.

Their staging is spartan and their lighting old-school; a sharp contrast to the modern arena spectacle on offer. And when all five, including drummer Leon Cave – with a “cocktail kit” as Rossi terms it – decamp to the front for a cheeky Gerdundula, there’s a wonderfully intimate feel to proceedings. But it’s the thunderous rock and roll they serve that truly captures attention, from the roaring Beginning of the End to the snappy Roll Over Lay Down. They even roll five or six of their hits up into a fast-paced medley; though the snapshot nature does feel somewhat lacking.
Status Quo performing live in Nottingham in December
2016. (Credit to Kevin Cooper.)
But the hits do keep coming; a burbling In the Army Now, the bouncy Whatever You Want, the booming, singalong Rockin’ All Over the World that bursts with anthemic passion. When they return, after a brief break, for the encore, they turn out fan favourite and latter-day hit Burning Bridges (On and Off and On Again), famously the basis for a football chant and hit single by Manchester United. As they wrap up with Chuck Berry’s Rock and Roll Music, Rossi sketches a quick bow. Status Quo may be going out – but they’re rolling home with a wallop, not a whisper.

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