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That was the Quo month that was ... December 1997

3rd - Quo concert at Bournemouth International Centre

On a typically frosty December evening, loyal Quo fans arrived at the BIC very early to queue for those prime positions standing up front. By 7.20, when Paul Rodgers arrived on stage, the Windsor Hall was about half full - and those that chose to arrive late for Quo alone missed a treat. The ex-Free and Bad Company star gave a great performance accompanied simply by bass, lead guitar and drums. Rodgers himself looked in good shape and his 50-minute set was a sensible mix of tracks from his new album, "Now", and old Free and Bad Company material. Free's classic "Wishing Well" got the audience really involved and we then saw Rodgers take to the keyboards for a couple of Bad Company numbers. How else could he round off his set but with "Can't Get Enough of Your Love" and "Alright Now", which were both sensational and received more audience participation than I've seen with any other Quo support act in my last 11 tours. Particularly noteworthy were Rodgers' strong vocal performance and his (left-handed) drummers solid performance. A fine choice of support band, expect audiences to flock to this support slot when the word gets round as the tour progresses.

Just over thirty minutes of watching the roadies scurrying around the stage brought us to showtime. At 8.45, the hall lights went down and the curtain separating Quo's gear from Rodgers' was removed. A strong classical piece of music comes belting from the stage, to accompany the incredible spectacle that is Quo's new lighting rig. Two concentric rings of lights moving in harmony up, up and away from the stage, like a UFO taking off in a sci-fi movie (someone behind me said "It looks like something out of Star Wars" !). Incredible to watch and you can see the guys lurking behind the stacks waiting for it to complete its magnificent trickery.

Rick's had enough, he's out stage left, straight into "Whatever You Want". Francis and the rest nonchalantly join him and off we Quo !! Familiar ground to follow in "Softer Ride" and "The Wanderer", before Francis stops for a chat. About the new set, he says "we've jiggled it about a bit" before his usual quips about some songs thrown together, indicating to everyone that the "Mystery Song" medley is on its way. Just to throw us, "Dear John" is slotted in between "Rollin' Home" and "Again and Again", the integration not being entirely seemless, but maybe this will improve as they play it more. Rick takes pride of place again with the reintroduction of "Don't Drive My Car", a track which never seems to go down all that well in my opinion. But I can forgive that one when "Gerdundula" is next, still sounding as fresh and impressive as the day it went back into the set, long may it reign.

For those only seeing Quo in their Xmas shows, "Roll Over Lay Down" was a new boy back on the block and it was received brilliantly, just the sort of classic Quo material that their set really cannot do without. Rick gets his biggets test of all next (not unnoticed by Francis who insists on some poor taste comments about heart failure!) with "Get Out of Denver", rapidly becoming a real crowd pleaser and the only stain on the set from "Don't Stop". For a change of pace, take us into "In My Chair", marvellously done just like in '89, another track in the same vein as "Gerdundula" which makes Quo sound very good indeed. Keeping things light and easy, a neat new medley opening with "Rock 'n' Roll", simply with Francis on vocal and Andy on keyboard, plus (later) Rhino on harmonies. Then into "Marguerita Time", "Living On An Island", "Break The Rules" and, wait for it, "Mean Girl". Well "thrown together", this new medley is a breath of fresh air, just wish they'd thrown away the "Mystery Song" medley altogether and replaced it with this. "Rain", "In The Army Now", "Rockin All Over The World", "Something Bout You Baby I Like" and "Roadhouse Blues" bring part one to a close in frantic fashion.

A very short encore and Rick is back, adopting his usual pose for "Caroline", still one of the great Quo crowd pleasers and an essential for their set. What's not essential is to still follow with the "Anniversary Waltz", the encore now just sounds tired and uninspired. Anyway, only one place to go next and that's into "Bye Bye Johnny" after Rick's couple of excursions into old time rock 'n' roll with "Rock 'n' Roll Music" and "Sweet Soul Music". A very short Bye Bye saw Quo signing off at 10.20, giving an on-stage time of under 90 minutes.

The new lighting rig is particularly impressive at the start of the gig, but never gets to shine again unfortunately. Sound was fine, although keyboard was a little too prominent and lead guitar too shallow. A good crowd of about 3500 and an active crowd too.

The band looked in good shape, Jeff's hair is regrowing a little around the back and Rick seemed to have put on a bit of weight. Highlight of the night for the band (apart from the priviledge of playing to us of course !) was a scantily-clad young lady bouncing around (literally !) right in front of Francis, Rick didn't miss it and said "you look wonderful"!

In summary, good gig for the first night, some of the newer stuff in the set will no doubt sound better as they polish it as the tour progresses.

Point of trivia: new tour programme (covers 1997/8 world tour) includes lots of pictures from Japan and Australia, including my backstage photo with the band in Canberra in March !!

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4th - Quo concert at Bournemouth International Centre

Another typical December evening in Bournemouth saw the crowds flocking once more to fill the International Centre to capacity. Paul Rodgers again kicked off early at 7.20, but this time had more of an audience who were, if anything, even more appreciative of his efforts than those of the night before. He confidently played the same set but included an extra Bad Company number, "Shooting Star" which was received well. Rodgers genuinely seemed to appreciate the Quo audience who were more than willing to reward any effort he put in. A fine performance from this creditable choice of support act.

Quo took stage after an agonising half hour wait at 8.45 to play exactly the same set as the previous night, but in a slightly more polished way. The two new medleys came out better and both "In My Chair" and "Gerdundula" were spot on. Francis introduced "Gerdundula" in the usual way, but with a new quip "We wrote this one in Germany about a couple we met. Rick liked one of them, Gerd !". A fluffy rhino thrown on stage for Rhino from a male member of the front row caused some amusement for Francis too, in the end he booted it back off stage into the audience. The crowd response was excellent even from "the people with the bums on the seats" as Francis so nicely puts it !!

Another good gig, slightly better than the previous night thanks to a sharper edge from the band and a slightly more involved crowd. Wonderful atmosphere, I turned round from the front a few times, just a sea of smiling faces, what other bunch of old rockers can do that to a face?

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8th - Quo concert at Bridlington Spa Pavilion

Impressed by the Bridlington illuminations, we joined the queue outside the majestic old Spa Pavillion at about 6.20. A brief moment of fame as I was spotted by someone in the queue as a result of my programme appearance did little to shorten the cold wait. The queue was not very long and very quiet due to a strong police presence, are mounted police really needed to keep us under control??

Doors open and in we rush, to find that most of the queue has headed for the balcony rather than opting for a front row spot downstairs. We opt for the front row and steal a place stage right ready for a "Rhino night". First impressions of the crowd are good, packing in strongly even before Paul Rodgers appeared. Bit of a disappointment that I can see no sign of the new lighting rig here, stage is just too small.

Rodgers' support set is becoming well established now and the Quo regulars are getting into it more and more, even the material from his new album "Now" is going down well. The true professional, Rodgers is even mixing stuff around and trialling different songs all the time, always of course culminating in the crowd-rallying "Alright Now". He goes down a storm tonight, the Spa almost full for him and in fine voice.

By the time the lights go down for Quo, the place is heaving and things up front are getting very squashed. The classical intro loses some of its impact without the accompanying light show and Quo simply squeeze on stage through a space left between Jeff's kit and the amps behind Rick. Ok, let's go !! "Whatever You Want" is enough for the Brid crowd to go wild and we're getting crushed up front. Things ease a little as the show continues and we can start to enjoy it more. Francis' first talky bit is not well received. He tells us that they've jiggled the set around a bit and taken out some songs that've been in for too long, like "Don't Waste My Time" - this receives the biggest boo I've ever heard at a Quo gig !! Maybe this song will reappear towards the end of the tour after this reception ! The set tonight is unchanged but for one good move, "Rain" is replaced by "Burning Bridges", a seemingly very popular decision, the Spa is rocking.

One of my most uncomfortable, sweaty and smelly gigs for a long time but also a very enjoyable one and the Bridlington Spa Pavillion is a great old venue attended by an enthusiastic crowd. Quo played very well again and now seem to be in full stride with the new set. Jeff was in fine form, once again determined it seemed to break those cymbals rather than just hit them !! Francis had a hard time controlling the energetic crowd up front but the atmosphere was wonderful and the sound good.

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12th - Quo concert at Brighton Centre

After meeting Suzie, Kev Meredith and Jennie Walker in the Evening Star, we made our way to the Brighton Centre for about 6.30. Following Suzie's misfortune at having her tickets stolen, I got them reissued from my original order - a relief for Suzie and Kev. A few drinks in the bar for me and friends meant I missed Paul Rodgers' set this time.

Entering the main hall after Rodgers' set, the place was nicely full and we took our seats in the third row. Nearer to Quo time, we stood at the barrier, only to be told that if we didn't all return to our seats then the show would be delayed. A few diehards remained and not even the house manager's request could get us to sit down. Our persistence paid off and Quo took stage a little later than usual at 9.00.

The set was identical to Bridlington and now looks firm, "Burning Bridges" generally getting a much better reception than "Rain" and hence staying in. The performance was excellent and very enjoyable, the front rows were nicely spaced and it was easy to have a nice little dancing spot all to yourself. Suzie and Francis had some good contact, and general crowd interaction was quite good, although the crowd was not too loud. An enjoyable show in good company, followed by a few drinks in Brighton made for a worthwhile trip to this always pleasant seaside town.

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13th - Quo concert at Wembley Arena

The annual mailing list pilgrimage to The Greyhound was a great success with about a dozen list members attending. A few drinks and stories exchanged before heading to Wembley Arena to sort out Suzie and Kev's lost tickets again. An extra support band had been added, taking the stage early at 7.10 so finished by the time I arrived. Apparently they were from Turkey and didn't go down well.

Paul Rodgers arrived on stage at 7.45pm and proceeded to make the most of his biggest audience to date on the tour. The Arena was as packed as it was going to get (the rear section again curtianed off) and the audience loved him. "Bad Company" and "Running with the Pack" were superb and Paul clearly enjoyed the Quo crowd. "Feel Like Making Love", "Wishing Well" and "Alright Now" blew the place apart and I'm sure Rodgers has won over some new fans as well as re-establishing himself amongst the old guard. A great performance by the whole band, enjoyed equally by them and us. What a start to the evening.

Quo took stage at about 9.20 and the same set was reeled out again. The Dutch Quo Army made their presence felt right from the word go, occupying about 7 rows right in front of Francis. Large screens hanging from both sides of the stage gave a good view for everyone and allowed even those nearer the front to get good close-ups of the guys in action. A camera half way back in the Arena also provided some superb shots of the full stage rig in all its glory. I hope these cameras were filming too.....

Highlight of the night of course was the much rumoured satisfaction of Suzie Quo's desire for one of Francis' sweaty shirts. Thanks to Mike Paxman, it finally happened. After Quo finished Bye Bye Johnny and relieved themselves of guitars, the guys took a bow in traditional style then Francis proceeded to remove his white (and by this time suitably sweaty) shirt. The awaiting Suzie caught the shirt and was ecstatic !! At least this proves that persistence pays off and we now know where Francis gets his shirts from (Next for those who are interested!). A fitting end to a great Wembley show and great to meet so many familiar faces, both on and off list.

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14th - Quo concert at Wembley Arena

A smaller mailing list meeting preceded this second Wembley show but it was nonetheless enjoyable for that. Another ticket reissuing session on behalf of Kev and Suzie went without a hitch and a few more yarns exchanged before heading for our seats, slightly better tonight in row 10. We managed once again to miss the first Turkish support band from 7.10 to 7.30 and instead waited for the arrival of Paul Rodgers at 7.50.

Paul again had a great night, the slighly smaller Wembley audience this evening (maybe 80% full) giving him a warm and enthusiastic reception. "Alright Now" was classic stuff, if anything gaining more audience involvement than ever - would you believe he even had the Quo crowd on their feet by the end of this one? When was the last time a support band managed that?! A good 55 minutes of quality performing once more from Rodgers and his capable band.

A quick turn around by the Quo crew saw Quo on stage by 9.15, to launch into an energetic and very well received replay of their now standard set. The Dutch Quo Army again made their presence felt, saving a barrage of balloons for this their finale. Francis wondered if the big secret was that there was some "smoky stuff" inside the balloons, much popping later revealed there wasn't !! Francis was also trying to be on his best behaviour as his wife and mother were in, his efforts not to try to say "shit" lasted no time at all !! The first half went really well and the Wembley crowd made up for their lack of numbers in sheer enthusiasm.

After a brief break, Quo are back for the now very short encore. A 4-balloon sculpture from the Dutchies makes its way onto stage. Francis has a kick around with it and then Rhino gets hold of it, hanging precariously off Jeff's cymbal bar as Rick hammers out the "Caroline" intro. Just as Jeff is about to come crashing in, the balloons are bounced off Jeff by his mate Rhino!! Great stuff, typical of the sort of on-stage frivolity that makes Quo live such a delight to watch these days.

A good end to a Wembley weekend which always sees a good turnout, particularly by the foreign fans, and always a good mailing list meet, probably the best of the tour in fact.

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16th - Quo concert at Reading Rivermead

The joys of winter touring were brought home to everyone who queued or waited outside Reading Rivermead Centre in readiness for Quo. A biting wind was more than a match for the T-shirts and denim jackets and to all those who queued to get the best places last night, good luck to you !! I arrived with Pete and Mike from the list after meeting up at the aptly named "The Moderation" pub near Rivermead centre, Paul Rodgers was already on stage.

The small centre looked completely dwarfed by the huge Quo stage set, even the new lighting rig had been squeezed in. Rodgers was treated to an almost full venue again and went down very well. The set was largely as at Wembley, culminating in "Feel Like Making Love" and "Alright Now" which got the place rocking and me thawed out. It looked like this crowd (of about 1500) were ready for a good night of rock 'n' roll....

Quo took stage at 8.50 after the classical intro, but no dramatic lighting rig effect as the hall was too small to allow the rig to execute its impressive movement routine. Quo left the stage at 10.25 after playing an identical set to those previously described. The question is - did the audience actually notice the bit inbetween? This was the most flat, passive, uninvolved, unappreciative, uneducated and embarrassing audience I've ever had the misfortune of being a part of. Apart from a couple of rows up front, no crowd reaction at all, even during "Bye Bye Johnny" when Francis asked for "everybody's hands" only about a half of the audience reacted. Quo played really well, however, and Francis did at one point say he liked a quiet gig (hint of sarcasm wasted on the audience). A small venue like Rivermead has the potential to be a highlight of the tour and I'm told that previous visits here have been a great success, but don't be surprised if Quo never go back after the appalling audience they got last night. Francis did sign off with his usual "Thank You, you were great" but let's face it, we weren't. The sound quality was also poor, being far too bass heavy, and basically just too loud for the venue size. Whether this affected the audience or not, I don't know but this goes down as one of my poorest gigs since I started touring in 1986. Looking forward to a better night at Birmingham on the 18th....

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18th - Quo concert at Birmingham NEC

While the NEC regulars have become used to seeing some of the Arena curtained off, nothing could prepare for the sight of half of the Arena unsold and unsubtly, unceremoniously curtained off. Only 5500 seats had been allocated and there were still some tickets available. Apparently, the same story applied the night before, so the obvious conclusion is to play one night only and fill the Arena.

Paul Rodgers again came on early but the Arena was reasonably full in its new reduced guise and he received a warm reception. No changes to his routine from Reading as far as I recall but here he went down so much better and everyone was on their feet for a rousing "Alright Now". Paul and his band obviously enjoyed themselves as much as we enjoyed them, and took a well deserved bow at the end of their 50 minutes.

Quo took stage at 8.50 and the impressive lighting rig did its stuff once more, looking ever more impressive in such a big venue. The set was unchanged but, thankfully, the Reading experience was not repeated and this was one of the best gigs this tour from my perspective. Francis was more playful than I've ever seen him, he was having a right laugh and his enthusiasm infected the rest of the band to produce a great show.

Just in front of me were three Americans, so Francis' usual "Any Americans in 'ere?" went really well !! Their little stars and stripes held aloft gave the game away, they'd also seen Quo in New York and suffered the Mexicans so here they had a great time, uninterrupted by such silliness.

The small crowd really worked themselves hard for Quo and Quo undoubtedly fed on it, such a contrast to the uninvolved folk in Reading only two days before. A truly memorable night of Quo and again the list was well represented (personally saw Jennie Walker, Matt Fearn and Jerry Fisher).

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21st - Quo concert at Cardiff International Arena

A pleasant December afternoon welcomed me to Cardiff amidst the onslaught of last minute Christmas shoppers. The only stop in Wales this tour, an ideal opportunity to remenisce of Quo's previous visits here to illustrious venues like the Ice Rink and of course the splendour of Cardiff Castle. Met Kev and Suzie for some Quo chat before heading to the modern Cardiff International Arena just before Paul Rodgers took the stage at 7.20.

First impressions of this venue are good, quite new, plush seating and a capacity of about 3500 with a cool balcony, this being a bit too far back to create that classic balcony atmosphere of places like Glasgow Apollo or Bridlington. The Arena was only about half full when Rodgers appeared, introduced rather bizarrely as "Buck Rodgers"!!

His set was familiar territory by now but nonetheless enjoyable for that. The crowd were quiet but as their numbers increased and the familiarity of his tracks did the same, they were roused into half decency. By the closing "Can't Get Enough of Your Love" and "Alright Now", a good proportion had taken to their feet and exercised those famed Welsh vocal chords. A nice touch as Paul and co left stage as they thanked Quo and their great crowds for such an enjoyable and successful support slot on this tour. Congratulations to Quo (and/or their management) for choosing such a good act and congratulations to Paul for making the most of the opportunity.

True to form, the lights dimmed just after 8.45 and the amazing light show did its stuff for the last time this tour. Quo appeared at 8.50 and reeled off the same set once more, but this was done with great energy and enthusiasm considering this was the last show of the tour and they'd played so many shows in such a short space of time. Francis was playful again and the whole band were in fine frolicking form. During "Get Out of Denver", Rick and Andy were singing into the same mike - and Andy gave Rick a peck on the cheek !! Jeff played the last few numbers wearing a Father Christmas hat, great to see a band who don't take themselves too seriously !! The real revelation, though, was saved for "Bye Bye Johnny". Let's do a bit of role playing - Rick took keyboards, Andy took Rhino's bass and Rhino took Rick's white Tele - for the last half of Bye Bye Johnny. Amazing, a classic display of versatility. I was particularly impressed by Rhino's use of the Telecaster, hammering out a classic rhythm just like Rick.

A fitting end to a great tour, the sell-out Cardiff audience eventually getting into the mood of things, though not helped by over-zealous security yet again. Quo deserve a Xmas rest and so do their followers, my 9 shows and 1500 miles have been as enjoyable as any tour I can remember, so thanks to Quo - and of course to all the people I've met who've made it special along the way. Till next year then.....

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29th - Quo on the Freddie Starr Show

Freddie's Christmas and New Year special featured Quo playing two songs. First up was "Whatever You Want", the band miming to the latest recording of the song. The show was closed with Quo playing "Rockin' All Over The World" joined by Freddie, complete with guitar to strum and a live mike for him to display his vocal, erm, talent.

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31st - "The Status Quo Story" on Radio 2 with Johnnie Walker

Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt were interviewed in November 1997 by Johnnie Walker for an hour-long show entitled "The Status Quo Story", broadcast on New Year's Eve. The interview was very well chronologically-crafted and kicked off with Francis talking about his meeting Pat Barlow in October 1962. From then on, through Butlins, The Spectres and Matchstick Men. Rick described some of the early touring excesses and they both spoke at length about the Vienna airport incident, an event which they both recall with great clarity probably due to their fear. The conversion of Quo from a pop act to a rock band was discussed and Rick talked about his tax exile on Jersey, leading to the song "Living On An Island".

Inevitably, the problems caused by the onset of drug use was covered, before more pleasant discussion of the wonders of "Live Aid" and the diversity of Quo's current audience. Rick told of his heart operation and the new healthy lifestyle it has enforced upon him. The interview concluded with some heartfelt discourse about the problems of juggling relationships with the rigours of touring and, finally, the future for Status Quo.

The interview was interspersed with excerpts of the following songs: "Rockin' All Over The World", "Hurdy Gurdy Man", "Pictures of Matchstick Men", "Down The Dustpipe", "Wild Side of Life", "Down Down", "Caroline", "Living On An Island", "Marguerita Time", "In The Army Now", "The Wanderer", "Fun Fun Fun" and "Rock 'n' Roll".

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