It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen The Quireboys and even longer since I saw them play an electric set. Add in the fact they had some excellent support in the form of Hardcore Superstar, Bonafide and Thirteen Stars, wrapped up in a nice bow of the “Hard Rock Hell AOR On the Road Tour” and playing one of my favourite venues, this was a night not to be missed.
Many of the bands on the tour (certain dates had other opening acts with Hardcore Superstar and Bonafide as mainstays for the duration of the tour) have played with each other before and is easily one of the best value for money tickets that we’ve had in a long time.
It’s an early start tonight and it’s reflected in the number of people in the room at about 18:30 as Thirteen Stars open proceedings. Their rootsy, almost Southern rock vibe is a great fit for The Quireboys but it’s lost on people who have came early to grab a pint at the bar, see what merch is on offer or those who want a good spot for the night. With polite applause doled out for their few songs, the band ignore that and are determined to impress. Up to a point, they do. They deliver a polished performance but much of Hoss Thompson’s vocals echo and bounce around the room due to the fact the room is so sparsely populated.
Following one of the quickest changeovers I’ve seen, Bonafide burst onto the stage to a far warmer reception than their predecessors albeit still a fairly empty room. They know this town and it’s been close to two years since they’ve been in its company, their energy is bursting from them. Hammering through a lengthy set, their blues and boogie drenched rock and roll makes for another great fit (after all, they supported The Quireboys a few years back) and somehow they manage to cover most of the bases like “Hard Livin’ Man”, the jam block-tastic tunes of “50/50” and “One Kiss” from Denim Devils alongside songs like “Dirt Bound”, “No Doubt About It” and a few other live staples.
Bonafide have always stuck me as one of the tightest live bands around. Whether it’s Pontus Snibb’s licks on his trusty Gibson SG combined with his note-perfect vocals, alongside his brother-in-arms Anders Rosell, expertly weaving around each other for some massive crunching riffs. One of the best sights when witnessing Bonafide is bassist Martin Ekelund (and the man who produced the last Quireboys album) as he gyrates around the stage, refusing to stay still for too long and delivering massive bass lines and much like his rhythm partner in crime, Niklas Matsson, it’s hard to know where to look between the four-piece. As always, the set ended with the mighty “Fill Your Head With Rock” and without fail, it has people singing word-perfect. And for me, without fail, it has me grinning, partly because of the message in the lyrics but also the memories associated with the song. As a rule of thumb, I’m not a fan of singles but Bonafide really did strike gold with this one. There’s just something about it being played that has you grinning manically, horns raised, headbanging and belting out the words with Pontus all at the same time.
Next up were fellow Swedes, Hardcore Superstar who have also toured with Bonafide (I told you this was a tight-knit tour). Added in to replace Faster Pussycat, they put on an entertaining show, their brand of dirty sleaze rock working the crowd into a frenzy and it’s clear there are quite a few people here for them. With the blues and boogie rock of the previous bands, it feels a bit out of place for a band like this to support The Quireboys. They put on a brilliant show regardless, their energy from the first note to the last is undeniable. Bounding around the stage, Jocke Berg is an enthralling frontman, reminding me of Axl Rose in his prime but Swedish with black hair. And has the good manners to appear onstage in a timely fashion. Meanwhile drummer Andre Andreasson takes a break from his drumkit with his tech filling in whilst he dishes out some drinks to the crowd. One bit I did pick up on was a bass line of Martin Sandvik sounding eerily similar to “Walk this Way” but regardless, they put on a great show and I’ll have to check out more of their material at some point. However, I will reiterate that a band with a sound like Hardcore Superstar’s sandwiched between bands like Bonafide and The Quireboys didn’t feel like a good fit.
Finally, after one last changeover, The Quireboys shuffle onto the stage, led by Jimmy the piper (who happened to do such a duty a few years back at the Garage) before Spike, his pint of Guiness (replacing his trademark cider given the date) held to the rafters as a greeting and bellowing his trademark opening gambit of “We’re The Quireboys…and this is rock and roll!”
I should have mentioned earlier there are a few things a bit different this time around for seeing The Quireboys in Glasgow. Firstly they’re not playing at their usual venue of the Garage, finally making the long overdue upgrade to the O2 ABC. Next, they’re playing in March, not November. However, the band are in their element, grins on all six men as they launch into “Troublemaker” from Black Eyed Sons and then “Too Much of a Good Thing” from Beautiful Curse; arguably the best Quireboys album since A Bit of What You Fancy.
The larger stage clearly agrees with the entire band, most notably Spike who has more room to dance around the stage and spin his microphone. Also, bassist Nick Mailing is clearly enjoying it (almost unrecognisable without his beard) as he moves around far more often, coming to the front of the stage at various and his bass pointed at the roof. Gone are the days of watching him rooted to the spot, stamping his foot in time with the beat and it heightens the quality of the entire band; they look so comfortable in a venue almost double in capacity. Combine that with The Quireboys’ best lineup and one that hasn’t changed in a few years now and you’ll see how it all ties together to make it the best I’ve seen them yet.
Song-wise, it was a slightly shorter set than usual due to “Some shite club afterwards” as Spike put it. However, that didn’t deter them and they managed to cram in an impressive fourteen songs into just over an hour slot. My own ideal set by The Quireboys would be about three hours long and thirty songs (if not more) but the ones I want to hear live I already have, some only once, some several times. Had Thirteen Stars been on earlier and brought everything forward, they would have had more time and space for another few songs but somehow they managed to hit all the live staples, throwing in a couple from their latest album, St Cecilia and the Gypsy Soul. The darkly acoustic “Gracie B” has been magnificently worked up into a full electric song and it sounds even more dangerous, meanwhile the title track, “St Cecilia” is introduced by Spike as the patron saint of music before having to confirm it with guitarist Guy Griffin.
There’s a sense in the crowd, as is the norm for this band, that everyone is game for a good night. Songs like “There She Goes Again”, “Mona Lisa Smiled” and “Tramps and Thieves” are sung back to the band where asked. Spike’s voice, as always, is in fine form. If anything, it’s only gotten better with age whilst some of his contemporaries can’t make such a claim. The end of the set was closed like many sets from the guys with “Hey You”, “Sweet Mary Ann”, “7 O’clock” and the encore of “I Don’t Love You Anymore”.
Meanwhile we have Paul Guerin on one side of the stage indulging in some slide guitar at moments and swapping lead guitar roles with Guy Griffin as they both make a deadly combination and one which has worked so well for years and only seems to improve with time. With a slight blip of Keith Weir’s keyboard not coming through the PA early in the set, it doesn’t stop him from hitting all his notes whilst understandably visibly concerned. Fans know his textures and melodies add great depth to the songs and The Quireboys just wouldn’t sound like The Quireboys if it wasn’t for keyboards and pianos.
Of course, we can’t leave out local boy, Dave McCluskey on drums. One of the finest drummers I’ve had the pleasure of seeing and seems to have broken the Spinal Tap curse placed on the seat, having been playing with the guys for a few years now. He locks in nice and tight with the afore-mentioned Mailing, rattling out rhythms laid down by their predecessors and their own and it’s those ones that show off their true ability.
Overall, it was a great night and the best I’ve seen The Quireboys yet, the band feeding off the excitement of being on bigger stages and the tightness of the performance due to a stable lineup. As I said previously, the only drawback was the shortened set due to the curfew and four bands performing rather than two or three. And if previous tours are anything to go by, I don’t think we’ll have to wait long for the next to be announced.