Loyal Quo fans had waited long and hard for true recognition of their dedication from a fan club and the 30th anniversary year gave them their reward in the form of a one-off exclusive concert at Brixton Academy. In front of their invited audience of FTMO members (plus some Queen and Beach Boys fan club members), Quo played two sets - the first a Ďplaybackí set of the "Donít Stop" album featuring numerous guest appearances, and the second a more traditional Quo live set.
In true die-hard fashion, fans assembled at the Academy well before the 6.30pm doors open and a queue formed all the way around the building - those near the back had a chilly and long wait and only just made it for the start of the first part of the show. For those packed in by 7.15, a rare stage appearance from Quoís manager, David Walker, welcomed them to this special event and FTMO members were thanked for their support. He also set out the timetable of events and introduced specific sections of the audience, including those from the Queen fan club and the Dutch, German and Irish Quo Armies. Walkerís five-minute introduction was well-received on the whole and a nice touch on behalf of the management.
For those fans used to the modern concert venues, Brixton Academy was a refreshing change. The stage has an almost theatrical appearance and raked stalls lead the way from the back entrance to the stage front. The balcony was reserved for use by spotlights and recording equipment, while the familiar Quo mixing desk stood proudly amongst the assembled masses. Nearer the stage, things became very tightly packed and the Academy felt just about the right size for the 4000 or so fans crammed in by the time Quo and co. took the stage at 7.30 for the "first half".
In their "Donít Stop" regalia of black suits, white shirts and black ties, Quo were greeted by a wave of crowd applause and adulation, their loyal fans giving them that unique welcome that only Quo fans can give. The following 65 minutes saw a complete playback of the "Donít Stop" albumís 15 cover versions, filmed for the corresponding video. Unfortunately, the whole set was mimed to ensure time compatibility with the CD but the band (and guests) tried hard to make the set as Ďliveí as possible. The highlights were Brian May (featuring on "Raining In My Heart") and the wonderful reception afforded The Beach Boys on "Fun Fun Fun". All the guests were welcomed warmly (especially Tessa Niles!) but The Beach Boys (complete with Brian Wilson) stole the show really. "When You Walk In The Room" went down well, and the very familiar "Get Back" and "Donít Stop" were particularly successful. A 4 Bills favourite, "Proud Mary", saw Rick shine on lead vocals and the bizarre "Safety Dance" gave the youngsters something familiar to sing along to. A good jig was had by all to the jolly "All Around My Hat", featuring Maddie Prior, one of the more successful oddball tracks.
A number of the "Donít Stop" songs, however, were not so well received. These included "You Never Can Tell (It Was A Teenage Wedding)", "Lucille" (surprisingly) and "Johnny and Mary". Some sections of the audience became noticeably quiet during these songs, perhaps a mixture of unfamiliarity (for some of the younger members of the audience) and the slower nature of at least some of these songs.
Taken as a whole, the playback set went down well and was lapped up by the eager Quo audience. Although mimed, the performance was very energetic and involving, more than making up for the slight lulls during some of the more obscure tracks. The Academy certainly rocked and its excellent acoustics made the most of all those audience singalongs!
A 40-minute break gave the band and their followers a well needed respite to get their breath back in readiness for the live set proper. Quo reappeared at 9.15, looking fresh and ready for action, launching headlong into "Caroline" and gaining the kind of reaction which has made Quo the legendary live act it is. Akin to the December tour, we were also treated to full-length versions of "The Wanderer" and "Something íBout You Baby I Like". The ever-present "Mystery Song" medley, "Donít Drive My Car" and "Whatever You Want" all helped push us towards the end of Ďpart oneí, but not before amazing receptions for both "In The Army Now" and "Down Down" (making a dramatic and welcome return).
Another short break before party time. Part two kicked off with Brian May joining Quo on stage to give what can only be described as a virtuoso guitar performance, before the traditional closing medley of "Rockiní All Over The World", "The Anniversary Waltz", "Sweet Soul Music", "Rock íní Roll Music" and "Bye Bye Johnny" (also featuring Brian May). The very vocal Queen fan club made their presence felt during Mayís performances - and who could blame them? The tall, slim guitar hero stood God-like at stage front, milking their rapturous applause while making his guitar produce the sweetest sounds possible - even Francis looked awestruck!
With almost an hour long live set, Quo looked much more at home and produced a truly memorable performance. To find fault would be difficult and perhaps unfair, but maybe the fans would have appreciated a (now) rare performance of "4500 Times" on this their special night?
To have over two hours of Quo performing just for their fans was a very special occasion and was enjoyed universally. Although some fans had expressed uncertainty about the venue, it turned out to be ideal - the perfect size to produce an extraordinary atmosphere that made the evening one to savour for a long long time in the memory of Quo fans everywhere.Revisit the January 1996 event list
ĎDear Jonís second single release, "All Around The World" (Hertz / MacFarland), appears on the CD single from MD Music (catalogue number DEVCS9) along with "Friends" (Hertz / Staines / MacFarland) and "Rio" (Hertz / Staines). Julie Staines features on lead vocals throughout, but the three songs are quite different in style.
Previewed during the "Donít Stop" tour support set, "All Around The World" (3:50) is the strongest track on offer here but lacks the edge of the live version. The lead vocal sounds a little too smooth and the overall feel is more pop than soft rock. The song is pleasant enough though, the acoustic guitar being particularly effective.
We enter singalong mode with "Friends" (2:58), a nice little acoustic number which is very catchy and well sung. Good guitar backing creates a folky atmosphere and itís difficult not to sing that chorus! The final track, "Rio" (4:21), is definite synth-pop but benefits from a more raw lead vocal and another very catchy chorus. It does feel stretched at over 4 minutes, though, and is perhaps the weakest of these three tracks.Revisit the January 1996 event list