Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Quo vadis?

I'd made enough of a recovery from the dreaded food poisoning by Tuesday to journey to Guildford to see The Stranglers supported by Nine Below Zero at G-Live. Nine Below Zero sounded pretty much how they sounded when I saw them in Watford before Christmas i.e. excellent if a little slower than I remember them sounding back in the day. Dennis Greaves still plays the cheeky chappie persona well, and remains an underrated singer and guitarist. I don't think I can recall seeing him play a Telecaster before although it sounded good to me, and I was close enough to the stage to hear him telling the band off a couple of times when they made mistakes - clearly not a cheeky chappie all the time then! Meanwhile The Stranglers were celebrating their 40th year as a band with a two hour long set that (I'm told) included at least one song from each of their 17 albums and which featured a three song-long mid-set appearance from veteran drummer Jet Black, which I believe is a rare occurrence these days. The audience seemed somewhat subdued until he began 'Golden Brown'; after 'Always The Sun' and 'Genetix' he left the stage to tumultuous applause after which the audience then seemed to me at least to return to their subdued selves. Strange - mind you I don't think I was the only person there that found the four screens suspended above the band to be something of a distraction during some songs. Still by the time we got to 'Five Minutes' and 'Hanging Around' things were getting a bit more lively, and the final encore of 'Tank' bought the proverbial house down. A good evening.

Friday Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks returned to The Crown in Cowley for the first time since Christmas Eve. That was a suitably noisy evening, this was rather quieter both in terms of audience numbers and band volume. We'd heard that there had been a few complaints from neighbours so both Pete and myself decided to take smaller amplifiers in an attempt to keep the noise down, and it certainly seemed to work as there were no complaints this time. Well, not to our faces anyway! When you play quieter than usual it can sometimes lead to a scrappy performance due to people not being able to play 'properly', and while there was the odd wrong turning here and there overall it was a good gig. We could have done with a few more people there though - I'm told that when the band played without me the next night several hundred yards down the road at The Three Steps it was an altogether more raucous affair. I was at The Brunswick in Hove playing a Teenage Cancer Trust benefit show with Back To Zero. We arrived just in time to miss Robby Allen And the Kite Collectors - a shame since I really enjoyed them when we played with them in Stoke back in February although I did manage to by their (excellent) album 'Mildred's Room'; I did manage to catch most of The Hiwatts's set of mod and mod-related covers before going off in search of food. The Legendary Groovymen, The Loop, The SuperMinx70 and The Past Tense all delivered strong sets, but sadly by the time we went on things were running a bit late and we were obliged to not only cut our set down but also finish before we were due to play 'Your Side Of Heaven', a situation which left some audience members somewhat disgruntled. I must admit it was all a bit frustrating in the end from our point of view, but hopefully they managed to raise some money for a very worthwhile cause. 

On Sunday afternoon I accompanied Big Al Reed in his 1959 Cadillac (!) to The Sportsman in Croxley Green for a jam session that featured among others High Voltage, some Swedish friends of Good Old Boys guitarist Pete Parks - I believe he goes out there and plays several times a year and organises shows over here for them in return. When we arrived High Voltage were roaring through an AC/DC song or two, and sounding very good indeed; later Al and I joined Pete on guitar, Bill on bass and the drummer from High Voltage (I can't remember his name! Sorry!) to play 'Peter Gunn' and 'Why Why Me', and jolly good fun it was too. 

If you're my age you've got to like Status Quo, or at the very least have a soft spot for them. Well I think that you have - I can remember seeing them on 'Top Of The Pops' when I was a lad playing songs like 'Caroline' and 'Down Down' and thinking that this rock 'n' roll lark looked like a pretty good thing to be involved in. Even my mum and dad liked them. With this in mind a chance to see the original line-up (the so-called 'Frantic Four') at The Hammersmith Odeon (or whatever the hell it's called these days!) seemed like too good an opportunity to miss, not least because the mighty Wilko Johnson was supporting. He sounded as great as ever - actually he sounded even greater than ever, with his 45 minute set going down so well that he could perhaps have played an encore. Everyone seems to love Wilko these days - as we all know his profile has been higher than ever since he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and let's hope he continues to play for a very long time yet. And what can I say about Status Quo that hasn't already been said? Terms like 'industry standard' don't cover it - they sounded, well, exactly like Status Quo should sound, with Rick Parfitt's rhythm playing remaining one of the touchstones of British rock'n'roll guitar and the band reminding everyone present why they liked them in the first place. There could have been a few more hits (I believe the set was based around the 'Live!' album) but I think the current line-up plays them so I guess this was a night for diehards and old fans rather than followers of the chart material. But however you look at it they sounded great - and I imagine that they always did. There are some things in life that you can rely upon, and I'd say that Status Quo are one of them. And that's alright don't you think?

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