They say you never forget your first love and that was certainly brought to Technicolor life when Rick Parfitt tore into the guitar riff of classic Quo set opener ‘Caroline’ on Friday night.
I was instantly transported back to the first time I saw the band live at Southampton Gaumont in 1981 and that rush of pure rock and roll inspired adrenaline that so swept me away as a young teenager. Always impressive on a string of superb albums, it was the raw passion and excitement of their live shows that blew me away and by the end of the evening at Newmarket that flame had not diminished with the years but had very much rekindled.
Running through a cherry-picked set that encompassed their long career and mixed newer and older classics Status Quo still have the energy and catalogue to shame most of the bands today. From the early primal boogie of ‘Paper Plane’ through to the more recent ‘Beginning of the End’ each song was greeted with roars of approval from the crowd.
So many of the songs played disabused the idea that Quo have always been heads down rockers and not much else. Sure, there was a lot of their signature bluesy hard rock but tracks like (cover) ‘In the Army Now’ and ‘Whatever You Want’ display such an ear for melody and great song-craft. Francis Rossi still plays the wisecracking frontman to a tee and Parfitt still looks every inch the blonde rock god as the stands at the apron of the stage cranking out rhythm guitar with all-consuming commitment.
Despite having threatened to retire several times, the bond between band and audience is so strong that has become a mutual dependency and when Parfitt sings the line “Say you need me” during ‘Big Fat Mama’ it seems so emphatic and telling of the need for both parties to share the music. Finishing the set with the very song they opened Live Aid with 30 years previously, ‘Rocking All Over the World’ exemplified the mass sing-along cum mission statement that the band has adhered to over almost fifty years.
A triumphal encore pairing of ‘Rock and Roll Music’ and ‘Bye Bye Johnny’ closed the night proper and left ears ringing and hearts and heads full.