Status Quo: Caldicot Castle, South Wales
Status Quo are one of the very few bands that for some inexplicable reason I’ve never seen live. Growing up in the 1970s, I was fully aware of their double denim pomp in the early-mid part of the decade and as farcical as it now seems, back then Quo were a staple part of the rocker’s induction. Albums such as Piledriver, Quo, On The Level and 1980’s Jus Supposin’ along with the fantastic Quo Live were essential listening but for some reason I never got my arse to the live arena to catch the band perform. The opportunity to rectify this and catch the band a mere 20 minutes from home in the splendid setting of Caldiot Castle was snapped up. Inevitably the curse of the old rocker arrived in June when rhythm guitarist and one half of the essential Quo line up Rick Parfitt was hospitalised in Turkey with more heart problems.
Luckily, Parfitt is making a full recovery and the band have had to deal with this issue before with Freddy Edwards, son of Quo bassist ‘Rhino able once more to step into Parfitt’s glistening white daps (as we say in these parts) to ensure the show would go on.
Arriving at around 6.30, the first thing we noticed was how chaotic the initial organisation appeared. Parking the car was relatively straight forward but the arena was pretty crammed as we entered and it was only some common sense applied by a couple of stewards in rearranging barriers that were blocking access that finally got some frustrated members of the audience moving. A disappointingly poor range of beverages meant that cider was the order of the evening with a pricey £4.50 for a 500ml bottle. The usual range of uninspiring catering meant that an opportunity to get some local producers in was wasted. The crowd certainly had the appetite for a booze, with the balmy weather assisting in the consumption and a few early evening casualties were struggling to focus by the time the main support hit the stage.
Now although Quo are ancient, their music, certainly their pre-1982 stuff has always appealed. Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel (6) on the other hand have never floated my boat. Opening with The Beatles Here Comes The Sun Harley and his band delivered 75 minutes of folky bluesy tunes which blurred into one as the show wore on. The horrendous Mr Soft punctuated the consciousness midway through the set, by which time we’d moved to the other side of the stage where as usual there was more space (herd mentality avoidance technique #1). At long last the strains of the awful gurning Come Up And See Me (Make Me Smile), Harley’s biggest hit from 1975 signalled the end of a pretty limp set where more of the crowd seemed intent on necking Carling than watching. Obviously the final song got a huge reaction but for me it was the first time seeing Harley and that was once too much.
Bang on 8.30pm Status Quo (8) arrived on stage and Freddy hit the opening chords to Caroline; those chords always make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. This song is the ideal opener and really gets the blood pumping. Easy to sing along to, fists pumping in the air and encouraging the Gwent Valley commandos finest dad dancing, it was all happening. Front and centre stands Francis Rossi, lead voice and lead guitar. Stick thin, healthy and still bashing it out. Alongside him ‘Rhino’ Edwards, long serving bassist who took over some of the Parfitt vocals during the set whilst Andy Bown, keyboardist and rhythm guitarist remains ever reliable, a member of the band since 1976. Yep, that’s 40 years and he’s not even one of the fantastic four! Keeping time at the rear of the stage, Leon Cave, a mere youngster at 38 (whose drum solo was possibly amongst the most limited I’ve ever seen but hey, these oldies need the breather).
The set list contained all the classics you’d expect, with highlights Roll Over Lay Down and a blistering Down Down. A medley mid-set included Down The Dustpipe and Wild Side Of Life whilst the folksy Gernudula saw the whole band lined up at the front of the stage for a rendition of the track which surfaced on 1971’s Dog Of Two Heads. It wasn’t all old school though with more recent tracks like Beginning Of The End mixed into the set.
Rossi is a likeable character, mumbling into the microphone between songs, mainly inaudible it has to be said but still performing magically, with some deft guitar work. As I said ‘Rhino’ picked up some of the vocal duties, his bluesy voice working well on tracks such as Whatever You Want. As dusk fell, the band moved to the final tracks of the night with the inevitable Rocking All Over the World closing the set before a double encore of Burning Bridges and Bye Bye Johnny closed an enjoyable evening.
As we left we discussed whether a second viewing of the band in the MIA in December was an option. Whilst the attraction of support REO Speedwagon is obvious to those of us who like a bit of AOR, Quo’s fans are a pretty irritating bunch at times and the thought of being seated amongst them for four hours is probably sufficient to keep my £55 in my pocket. It may not have been Parfitt and Rossi but Quo outside in the summer time was a worthwhile and enjoyable experience.