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That was the Quo month that was ... December 2014

1st - Quo concert at Mozartsaal, Mannheim, Germany

I was lucky enough to find myself in Germany at just the right time to catch one gig of the German tour, the show in Mannheim just to the South of Frankfurt.

The venue was fantastic - the beautiful old front facade was also home to a small German market and, most importantly, a roaring open wood fire around which to enjoy a few warming gluhweins before the gig!

As I understand it, this was the only show of the German tour with seats, but at least that made it easy to meet up with friends before the gig and then find my seat just before Lou Gramm took the stage - row 4, dead centre. He did a fine job of warming up the large audience with a set of mostly familiar Foreigner tunes. His voice was impressive as were his backing band - a good choice of support.

Quo took the stage at just before 9.30pm to little fanfare and kicked off in usual style with "Caroline" and in many ways this set the tone for the whole performance - tight, great sound, and loud. The set list changes have really breathed newlife into the gig I think - the full version of "Railroad" was a highlight as were top notch renditions of "Blue Eyed Lady", "Oh Baby" and "Little Lady". While "Beginning of the End" and "Creepin' Up On You" (and to some extent "The Oriental") seem misplaced in this set, the overall gig is a very enjoyable one and went down very well with this audience. Francis's guitar work was particularly noteworthy, no sloppiness here and that new Status guitar sounded great.

The new lighting rig looked fantastic as well and coupled with the great sound (where I sat, others didn't seem to enjoy the sound so much in other parts of the auditorium), this was a professionally staged show and Quo performed well. The sound was heavy, the changed set rocks, and anyone judging the current state of Status Quo from poor quality recordings from mobile phones is really missing out on the band in good form. This is in no way a band on its last legs from what I saw in Mannheim!

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2nd - Release of "Aquostic" UK tour dates and tickets

The sales success of the "Aquostic" album meant a tour was always on the cards and the dates & tickets (for fan club members at least) were released on 2nd December. The five dates for the tour were revealed as being in April and all in the UK, with maybe more to come?

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5th - Francis interview in the Yorkshire Evening Post

In the lead up to the Quo concert at Leeds Arena on 10th December, Francis was interviewed by Martin Hutchinson for the Yorkshire Evening Post and the interview was published on 5th December.

"A busy year for Status Quo culminates in the now-traditional December UK tour. But could this be the last?

Singer Francis Rossi reveals the veteran rock band is considering changing its schedule and playing sit-down acoustic gigs as it approaches its 50th anniversary.

"We aren’t sure if we’ll be doing a tour like the December one in 2015," says Rossi.

"The older you get, the more it hurts. Our gigs are quite physical," he smiles.

"I tell people I’m 65 so they say ‘you’re as old as you feel’ and I keep telling ’em that I f***in’ feel 65.

"But when we sat down to do the acoustic show, it felt very comfortable. So that may be the way to keep the band going to the 50th anniversary in 2017."

This year the band released an acoustic album – a full album of Quo hits as we’d never heard them before.

"I didn’t fancy it at first," explains Rossi. "But then we did some adverts in Australia and did a couple of acoustic songs, and we thought that the melodies were really nice."

So the band took it a stage further and went into the studio. "Once we got into it, I began to enjoy it. It was both enjoyable and creative. So much so that I got a bit ‘precious’ about it and the concept grew a bit."

A project that was supposed to take four to six weeks ended up taking four and a hlaf months. "The songs got better each time we did them and we kept adding bits, and then we decided on having a real accordion instead of a synthesizer."

There was also the second reunion tour of the ‘Frantic Four’ line-up of Francis and Rick together with original bassist and drummer Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan.

After 30 years apart, this classic line-up reunited in 2013 for a handful of shows.

The fans, who had wanted this reunion for years, were ecstatic and clamoured for more.

They got it as the foursome reunited for one last time earlier this year for a handful of shows in the UK, ending in Dublin.

"This year’s shows went much better than the first," Rossi tells me at his London home. "The people loved it, which was the main thing."

And will the Frantic Four reunite again? "No, there’ll be no more. We had a talk and came to the conclusion that the personality clashes that helped break up the band before could resurface – but we’ll keep in touch."

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6th - Article about Francis and his green Telecaster in the Express (UK)

The following article, titled "Quo star Rossi forced to ditch guitar he's played for 46 years" and written by Paul Jeeves, appeared in the UK's Express newspaper on 6th December.

"STATUS Quo star Francis Rossi has been left heartbroken after finally being forced to hang-up his trademark guitar.

The music veteran has rocked all over the world for almost 50 years with his 1957 Fender Telecaster, making it one of the most distinctive - and valuable - instruments in rock.

But with their latest British tour starting tonight in Liverpool Rossi has been forced to start using a new guitar for the first the first time since 1968 because the wood on the vintage Telecaster has become so soft the guitar can no longer be kept in tune.

Instead he will now be playing a custom-built £8,000 green Status graphite guitar leaving fans in shock that he will no longer be playing the trademark guitar which has been used at over 4,000 Quo concerts and shows including Live Aid in 1985.

Last night Francis told the Daily Express: "I've had a love-hate relationship with that guitar for years. It's still coming on the tour - just in case - but it will stay on the rack unless something major goes wrong with the new one. It's sad but it's past its sell-by date.

"I was having more and more issues with it, I've messed about with it so much but it just wouldn't stay in tune anymore. I had this new guitar built but when they brought it to me and it was coloured bloody green again I just couldn't believe it. But I started using it at soundcheck and it sounded so good. But it was really strange taking it on stage in Germany for the first time - I could see the audience looking a bit shocked.

One fan who witnessed the band minus the guitar playing in Germany earlier this week said: "I don't know what was more strange - seeing a short-haired Francis Rossi without his ponytail or without his famous guitar.

"If I was Rick Parfitt I'd be getting a bit worried as he could be next for the chop."

Rossi bought the Telecaster in Glasgow for £70 when it was still in its original sunburst colour but used some furniture paint to originally paint it black.

He added:" At first it looked fantastic, it was black and mean but when I did a gig it looked really horrible. So, I took it back home, sanded it down and painted it green instead. I've never actually finished painting it and now it's in a really terrible state.

"I've had people offer to buy it for a lot of money but to me it is sort of priceless."

The guitar also has an unusual hole in its body which the guitarist made with a drill to feed his cable through as it kept dropping out while he was swinging the instrument about on stage."

"Everybody thinks it's some weird thing to do with the acoustics but it was just to keep the cable to the amps in. The funny thing is when Fender started making my signature guitars they put holes in them just the same.

The guitar has been valued at an estimated £1m but as Quo undertake their current 11 date UK tour, which includes a date at London's 02 Arena on December 19, it will be left at the side of the stage unless the guitarist has a last-minute change of heart.

Rossi added: "We've just done an acoustic album which was really out of my comfort zone and perhaps that has given me the confidence to finally put the Tele to one side. After all these years if people stop coming to the shows because of my guitar then there's not much I can do about it. I'm sad but the new guitar sounds fabulous. Playing it is as good as sex."

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10th - Quo concert at Leeds Arena

The Leeds Arena gig of the UK Winter tour on 10th December was reviewed by Paul Jeeves for the Express.

"MAKING jokes about keeling over on stage Tommy Cooper-style was a brave thing for 65-year-old Status Quo frontman Francis Rossi to do.

But perhaps he was only voicing the fears of fans who thought the whole band may die on stage (in a theatrical sense) after two sensational sell-out reunion tours with Quo’s original Frantic Four line-up offered a reminder of just what a great heavy rock band they once were.

It is somewhat ironic that while Quo have been mocked for decades for having three chord songs that all sound the same – they managed to alienate huge swathes of their once-loyal fan base by so dramatically changing their musical output following the commercial success of Rockin’ All Over The World.

The surprise reunion, playing songs only from their heavy 70-76 era, came after 30 years in the musical wilderness and numerous court battles between Rossi and Rick Parfitt against their former drummer John Coghlan and bass player/vocalist Alan Lancaster.

Once back-in the fold many thought the original line-up would remain until the band retired but instead after a final show in Dublin in April, Rossi called time on the project claiming he "didn’t understand nostalgia". Instead he wanted to revert back to playing a greatest hit set "with precision musicians" on annual winter tours.

Stand-out track of the evening was Oh Baby from 1972’s Piledriver album, played with real intensity and drive Parfitt, 66, protested, had a heart attack, almost died, and swiftly succumbed to his partner’s demands. And so the version of Quo cruelly-dubbed ‘Panto Quo’ by die-hards because of their annual pre-Christmas tours and softer soundtrack returned to the road amid a fanfare of disappointment.

But having made a telegraph pole sized rod for their own backs Rossi and Parfitt backed by bassist John ‘Rhino’ Edwards, keyboard player Andy Bown and new drummer Leon Cave rolled into the purpose-built Leeds Arena as part of 11-date UK tour determined to ramp-up the rock.

The opening salvo with a silhouette of Parfitt created behind a huge curtain as he hammered the opening bars of Caroline was iconic and spine-tingling before the drape dropped as the drums and bass kicked-in.

With amps set to 11 they thundered through a pounding opening delivering 12-bar classics Paper Plane, Rain and the delightful Blue Eyed Lady.

Parfitt’s trusty Telecaster sounded great but whereas the Frantic shows at venues such as Hammersmith Apollo had seen packed-crowds surging and headbanging in a swaying sea of leather and denim the muted reaction of many in the 6,000 arena audience to the onstage blitzkrieg was to remain seated and politely clap-along.

Rossi was clearly enjoying playing his new green graphite guitar having been forced to stop playing his battered-green wooden Telecaster after 46-years together, but at times it gave a bit too-much heavy metal squawk to his solo’s and not enough bluesy warmth of the Fender.

Stand-out track of the evening was Oh Baby from 1972’s Piledriver album, played with real intensity and drive while Rossi’s new guitar sound hit its nadir during In The Army Now.

Nothing later than 2007 was played rising questions about Rossi’s failure to grasp nostalgia while album tracks Creepin’ Up On You, Beginning of The End and The Oriental are long-past their sell-by date and could easily have been replaced with more vintage offerings from their mammoth back catalogue.

A final-straight of Roll Over Lay Down, Down Down, Whatever You Want and Rockin’ All Over The World went down in typically crowd-pleasing style and the La La La Like It reaction made you understand why Rossi and Parfitt are more than happy to carry-on with this current version of the band instead of rockin’ ‘til they drop with the original band."

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13th - Quo concert at National Indoor Arena, Birmingham

Midway through their December UK tour, Quo played at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham for the first time, on 13th December. This show was recorded by Abbey Road Live and was available for purchase immediately after the show as well as later as a CD or download. This was the only show of the German and UK tour that was recorded, so provided a nice record of Quo's late 2014 set.

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19th - Quo concert at O2 Arena, London

For the penultimate gig of the UK tour, Quo played to their biggest audience of the tour at the O2 Arena in London on 19th December. In front of over 8000 people, Rick's young son Tommy joined his dad on stage in the encore and it looks like we have another Parfitt rocker in the making (check him out on this YouTube clip!).

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