Sunday, March 3, 2024

Status Quo – Down Down & Dirty At Wacken

As the rising ac of an organ wafts over the open air stadium I’m half expecting some Deep Purple offshoot about to make their cock rock appearance, but once those 12 bar chords take hold we know the Quo have arrived. A piano tinkles furiously and Francis Rossi sings out ‘Caroline’. More mid-paced pumping than raging guitars, come the chorus it becomes apparent this is a post-Parfitt version of the band. Despite which Andy Bown takes flight on piano throughout and your attention’s held via some extended wiry guitar work from Rossi as it drives a little harder in the solo.

‘Something About You Baby I Like’ is next and is a little too Chas & Dave do speedy pub rock. The shared vocals by an almost yodelling Rossi and grunting Rhino Edwards causing the listener to turn to their record player of choice and raise an eyebrow.

The world at large hears a song and either likes it or moves on. They can tell you it’s Mick Jagger singing in The Rolling Stones, but early Beatles hits could be Lennon or McCartney on the radio, same goes for The Eagles’ whole career, a pop group like Take That and even Status Quo. But take that element away and it stands out a mile. It might be better, it could be worse.

‘Rain’ redeems the patient, remaining steadfast in its military precision, and while it’s Edwards who takes lead vocals you settle in and enjoy the song, appreciating the epic feel of those unrelenting guitars. ‘Softer Ride’ follows bopping rather rocking, the shared vocals veering between Oi –style pub rock punk or sneering on the one hand  and unexpected Everly Brothers harmonies the next.

“Hello!”  calls out Rossi to the audience, and confuses matters with apparent indifference declaring not to worry they’ll be off in about 70 minutes. Is the gig just a pay cheque or can’t he shake off the role of playing a grumpy old uncle?  Interviews and live shows will have him moaning one minute and having a right old laugh the next. It’s very hard to get a handle on him. Logistically he just can’t be doing this for the money; if he’s not snorting half of Peru up his nose anymore he’s got to have tucked enough aside, he must still love it, if only for the self-satisfaction of the applause, and then you’ll hear him play and know he’s really got off on what he’s doing. Maybe it just takes a little longer these days.

As it is they reach back to the band’s deep past, six strings noodling away on a boogie figure until ‘Hold Your Back’ strides free, able harmonies supporting Rossi’s lead vocals nicely and interpolating ‘I Ain’t Gonna Work’ in between. Rossi announces they’re going to throw a few more tunes together “All in one key” and ‘What You’re Proposing’ has the band speeding up if not to a gallop then a sturdy steady jaunt. There’s strong drum and bass connection between Edwards and what the internet tells me should be Leon Cave on drums, with one Richie Malone having now replaced Parfitt, while it must be long-time road manager Bob Young stepping out on stage to play the harmonica lead into old faithful ‘Down The Drainpipe’, and meanwhile Bown continues to jangle away on piano. Around now, Rossi sounds like he’s having fun, laughing as he sings and they take on ‘Wild Side Of Life’ then an odd shuffle that’s ‘Railroad’, next Edwards bellows out ‘Again & Again’ and the German audience chip in vocally as they go into the serious heads down hammering of ‘Paper Plane’.

‘In The Army Now’ follows. A song I considered absolute drivel back in the day. Shorn of studio overdub sweetness and wrapped in what might be conceived as post traumtatic stress irony it feels earnestly poignant. A big cheer goes up from the crowd so it’s obviously popular.

‘Roll Over Lay Down’ remains the most honest life on the road rock song committed to vinyl. It’s a slightly slower bluesy version we’re offered but It still cuts the mustard; Rossi playing guitar tenderly in the slow section before they rise back in for one final chorus surge. Likewise ‘Down Down’ is less frantic with a looser piano boogie running through making you wonder if the original Whitesnake ripped it off for ‘Lie Down (I Think I Love You)’.  ‘What Ever You Want’ cuts up like a rough diamond; while the shared vocals don’t quite gel your foot taps away and Rossi delivers a classy little solo.

Then, between tightly chording guitars, a heavily overworked piano, and a backbeat worthy of a Soho strippers’ joint, Rossi croons away with the crowd singing along as they finish with ‘Rockin’ All Over The World’.

The German crowd are heard cheering away as they return to encore with their ‘Rock And Roll Music/Bye Bye Medley’. It’s all revved up, the bovver boy shared frontline vocals work, the crowd sing along and musically they vamp things up, jamming and grooving with some playful guitar and bass.  The final songs of the main set had them sounding tired, here they are re-energised and leave the stage having entertained the crowd so earned their money.

Overall, Status Quo’s old popular live songs work better than the hit singles on this live recording – So many of them they’re lucky to be given a verse in a medley and even then top ten hits are missed out. The absence of Parfitt’s voice and possibly the way he kerchanged his guitar too is often a reason – Don’t get me wrong, it’s only in recent years I’ve given Quo a go myself, whereas I’ve been a big fan of John ‘Rhino’ Edwards since he was a lad jumping up and down on stage with the Judy Tzuke Band, and enjoyed his slot supporting King King earlier in the year, but, on record here, the difference is noticeable.

Still, there’s life in the old dogs yet, and you can always return to the band’s original denim clad working class rock albums if you want the original beasts.

Paul H Birch
Paul H Birch
RAMzine Senior Writer - Writer of fiction, faction and fact, has edited several newsstand magazines. He declares himself a hack for hire but refuses to compromise on the subject of music.

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