Status Quo Live
Llangollen International Eisteddfod
14th July 2014
The veteran rockers demonstrate again the power of riff-driven classics.
Sunday July 13th 2014, nothing extraordinary happened. Germany ended a month long football tournament by winning the World Cup and Status Quo delivered a set of riff-driven classics to thousands of their adoring fans. The venue was the now permanent marquee which stands on the field of the International Eisteddfod in Llangollen. What has traditionally been a festival of folk and classical music from around the world is now making a concerted effort to incorporate rock and pop onto the bill and so it was that Quo were booked to close the festival. They left to an ovation that must have rivalled that accorded to Die Mannschaft on their victory in Rio
For a band that has sold nearly 130 million albums, Status Quo have possibly never received the critical acclaim that should be rightfully awarded to a band of nearly 50 years longevity. Maybe they are simply too familiar, hiding in full view of us all. Maybe a couple of their commercial moves have alienated some but we are here to focus on the sound. The sound of course is the secret and has endured for long enough to make argument redundant. For every curled lip it elicits, there are thousands who see it as the essential soundtrack to their life and, when the house lights dim, Quo know they will walk out onstage in front of hordes of fanatical devotees.
The recent reunion of the classic ‘Frantic Four’ line up saw the band deliver sets that showcase the awesome power that is to be found in their early ‘70’s work. However, Francis Rossi has said that version of the band won’t tour again and so tonight it was the current line-up who would serve up a festival set of classic Quo. The audience spanned the generations and this was presumably why an official felt the need to announce shortly before the start “I hope you all realise this a rock and roll band with rock and roll levels”. Whether this was seen as a challenge by those who were dispersing the ‘grey pound’ is unclear but there was no holding them once the band started. Francis Rossi even said that the misgivings the band had while sneaking a look at the crowd before the start had proved false. He obviously doesn’t know the Wrexham area where this passed as a quiet and dignified evening.
So when Quo stride on stage, they bring with them a self-assurance without swagger and a dedication to the ideals of rock and blues that seems as fresh as if they are just starting out. I’ve seen bands who are going through the motions yet still manage to appease an audience with a collection of hits but these guys are at it for real. From the unmistakeable opening bars of ‘Caroline’, the band are full on with the twin telecaster titans of Rossi and Parfitt in full flow. Over-officious security prowl the venue trying to force jubilant punters to sit down much to the obvious disgust of Rick Parfitt and the ‘Mild Man of Rock’ confers with Rossi who then orders the whole crowd to their feet. ‘Paper Plane’ follows and the pure force of one of their early hard rocking classics tends to render any further arguments redundant.
Just close your eyes and listen to those riffs, some of the finest produced in rock history. Simple and predictable? Well if they are, not too many others have quite managed to hallmark such an enduring sound and maybe this is all rock music was meant to be. Watch Francis Rossi in action and you realise he is quite simply one of the great lead guitarists but then glance over to Parfitt hammering out rhythm guitar and marvel at how fortune threw them together to pluck some of the great riffs out of the ether. ‘Rain’, a great opportunity to showcase Parfitt’s fine soulful voice is followed by ‘Rock and Roll and You’ and a medley of songs in a key they claim not to remember.
As we move towards the climax, Rossi is briefly left alone on the stage as he teases out the brilliant and instantly recognisable opening to ‘Down Down’. Seeing this live is like standing at the end of a runway as an Airbus A330 hurtles toward take-off and when it segues into ‘Whatever You Want’ you feel as if you’re caught in the slipstream. ‘Rockin All OverThe World’ is the inevitable set closer before the encores, including ‘Rock and Roll Music’ and ‘Bye Bye Johnny’ see the band hark back to early influences.
Status Quo were always going to do exactly what it says on the tin and leave this most eclectic of audiences in raptures but thousands of people in a tent going crazy over guitar riffs can’t be a bad thing can it? Four years from now it’s quite likely that they will still be doing it and Germany will be World Cup winners again. There is nothing new to offer with this review and there’s unlikely to be anything you don’t know about Quo. However, that very familiarity may be the main reason you should possibly consider a re-evaluation of their sound and influence as sometimes the very thing you seek is in front of you all the time.
All words by Dave Jennings. You can read more by Dave by visiting his LTW Author’s Archive.