The familiar 4 Bills ground of Teddington School provided a quick return for the growing band of stollid 4 Bills support after their recent gigs at Worcester Park and Isleworth. The competition from numerous firework parties must have been a worry, but no need - the die hards arrived early and enjoyed the 4 Bills soundcheck before the hard-trying support band. The socialising had to stop once they got going, then came the influx of supporters to fill the large school hall to welcome the 4 Bills on stage at 9.30.
In their same configuration once more, the Bills shot out of the traps as usual and didn't take long to whip up the crowd on their side. Warman was as effervescent as ever, wringing the last drops of adulation from his audience and proving there's still a place for live rock and roll. Backed by his very professional musicians, he had no problems in keeping up the momentum - Steve Byrd never disappoints on lead guitar, Rhino keeps things in check and Jeff provides the backbone. The additional influence of sax and keyboard gives their material the edge over a standard covers act, as does their remarkable ability in gelling together as a consistent performing unit.
Problems with sound were unfortunately ever present but that didn't detract too much from the overall enjoyment of the first 90 minutes. Highlight for me was a rare 4 Bills inclusion, the Beatles "I Saw Her Standing There" which went down particularly well with the Teddington crowd. Another 20 minutes or so draw the gig to a hot and energetic climax, the end of another quality performance from this able and professional band.It was nice to see the usual Quo faithful turning out as well as some faces from past 4 Bills. The word seems to be spreading to the mailing list as well and we were lucky to share conversations with Rhino and Jeff about the new album, details of which now appear on the official Quo web page. Revisit the November 1998 event list
The popular 4 Bills venue and well-known London live music pub, The Half Moon in Putney, paid host to "State of Quo" in their line-up including John Coghlan. A number of familiar faces awaited in eager anticipation from early on and the real early birds were treated to a taste of what was to come, by way of the soundcheck. No poncing about here, launching into "Juniors Wailing", the classic Quo live song which John must have opened many a concert with back in the early 70s. Next up, a curtailed version of "4500 Times", something I never thought I'd experience John Coghlan doing again. He played it well, only breaking down some ten minutes or so into the song. No matter, the soundcheck was over and a short break for the band to collect themselves before the gig itself.
Also time for some socialising and great to see a really good turnout from the mailing list this time around - including yours truly, Eric, Matt Fearn, Matthew Bradshaw, Timmy Langer, Kev Sullivan, and Nigel Sutton and perhaps others I didn't get around to. And "State of Quo" achieved their ultimate accolade when Status Quo arrived as well !! - I mean the man, not the band but he was as entertaining as ever and fulfilled an ambition to meet and greet John Coghlan.
As 9.30 approached, "State of Quo" took the familiar Half Moon stage, to a disappointing crowd of about 50. What followed was 1 hour and 45 minutes of what we've by now become used to expect from this incredible outfit - old Quo played like old Quo should be. All the classics are there to drool over and, with John Coghlan behind them, they simply can't go wrong in the favours of true Quo fanatics. Where else are you going to hear a live set including songs like "Juniors Wailing", "Little Lady", "Hold You Back", "Railroad", "Down Down" and "Big Fat Mama"? The immense pleasure that these four guys get from entertaining a crowd could almost be bottled as an intoxicating liquor, you just cannot help but love them - not only for their respect of the original Quo sound but also for their desire to keep the old Quo going in the hearts and minds of the Quo faithful. Even John took the mike at one point and thanked the band for keeping the old Quo alive, a lovely gesture from Quo's original and well-loved drummer.
The small crowd lacked little in enthusiasm and some great audience participation was in evidence throughout, even in John's drum solo (which was a bit shorter than I would have liked), as unfashionable as that might be. Mike ("Francis"), Paul ("Rick"), Tony ("Alan") and John ("John"!) pulled off another superb performance, and to criticise would be to miss the point - there can be no criticism levelled at an act who not only enjoy what they do but who also put smiles on faces, everyone goes home happy.
Some heavy-handed tactics to clear the pub marred the after-gig socialising with the band somewhat, but even so, John was happy to sign anything and everything people had brought along. I hope I speak for all the members of the list in attendance in saying that this was a great evening's entertainment, I wonder how many whacked on "Live!" 1976 shortly after this gig? The similarity and that unique John Coghlan backing is just something so special to witness, no Quo fan should miss these lot, simple as that.Revisit the November 1998 event list
As part of the BBC's promotion for the annual 'Children In Need' appeal, Quo appeared on Jim Davidson's "The Generation Game". He introduced them by saying "..they were formed in 1914..." and Quo played the greatest hits medley, but without Andy on keyboards. The crowd got involved and clapped along in the appropriate parts. Quo's performance was sent off with a firework display, before a short interview between Jim, Francis and Rick. Finally, Quo donated £1000 to the appeal.Revisit the November 1998 event list
Originally planned as an unmissable opportunity to celebrate my birthday on the 24th via Quo's gig in Bonn, my week in Germany was rearranged alongside Quo's rearrangement of the gig to (finally) the 25th in Koln. The week started and ended in Frankfurt, taking inbetween Bonn, Koln, Oberhausen, Bremen and Hannover plus three Quo gigs.
Germany lay out a memorable welcome with sub-zero temperatures in Frankfurt on arrival which continued till mid-week. The city skyscraper-spotting made way for the somewhat more friendly Bonn, my arrival coinciding with the start of the Christmas Market season for which Germany is (so rightly) famous. Less than one day to explore this pretty Beethoven-dominated city, but enough time to endulge for the first time (but not the last) in the infamous Gluhwein (mulled wine) of the Markets.
A short journey from Bonn led to the inspiring city of Koln, arrival at the main railway station being rewarded by the awesome sight of Koln's most famous landmark, the Dom (cathedral). Not for the faint-hearted, the climb of the cathedral's south spire (just five hundred or so steps) gave an impressive view over the city and its artery, the Rhein. With four Christmas Markets to explore, there was plenty of time to compare and contrast between Gluhwein vendors before the first of the three gigs loomed large on the 25th. The E-Werks venue lies a little out of the city, but only really a short tram ride (if you get the right one!) and a walk into a derelict industrial area.
The rather stark exterior hid quite a pleasant interior and the venue was full to capacity with about 2500 people crammed in, almost full even for the support band T'Pau at 8pm. Carol Decker and her new band immediately won the hearts of the crowd with the familiar songs of their late 80s success - "Bridge of Spies", "Heart and Soul" and "Valentine" - along with tracks from their new album "Red". Decker's voice remains distinctive and powerful and her young band (lead guitar, bass guitar, drums and keyboards) backed her well. Only one song could ever close their 45-minute set, their huge hit "China In Your Hand" which Decker oozes out of every pore. The German crowd welcomed T'Pau very warmly and gave them good responses, and it was nice to see Decker indulging in a little German speaking for their benefit. A good support set, well performed and a not at all disappointing precursor to Quo.
The usual frantic activity followed T'Pau's departure from the stage with Quo's crew preparing for the main act, a tense 45-minute wait for the crowd and, for me, a sense of great anticipation to see Quo live for the first time in 1998. The wait was eased by the playing of new Quo songs over the PA, interrupted by the virtuoso performances of Tonto on the guitars!! The lights dimmed and the crowd erupted - Quo were about to go.
No intro tape, just the first chords of "Down Down" - the curtain drops, Rick, Francis and Rhino are standing in line in front of the drums, the curtain is halled off stage by Dave and the crew and the boys leap out and assume their more usual positions. Jeff is more clearly visible behind his honed-down kit and Andy is as ever hemmed in by his keyboards. The German crowd went mad at "Down Down" and it made a welcome return to the set, as did its successor "Hold You Back", the cue for everyone to jig in time with Francis and co. Next up, time for Rick to take centre stage with "Backwater", a classic Quo song and now almost familiar as a Rick lead vocal.
Francis takes the mike with the usual banter and introduces "One Man Band", back after a short absence, and now becoming an established live favourite. "Softer Ride" and "The Wanderer" to follow, then into something new - the full version of "Living On An Island" but with some live twists. Making a long-awaited return, having not been played to my knowledge since 1994, "Dirty Water" threw us all into singalong mode but without its traditional introduction. Another talky bit from Francis to introduce "Gerdundula" then none stop to the end of part one, through "Roll Over Lay Down", "In The Army Now", "Whatever You Want", "Rockin All Over The World" and the "Mystery Medley". The choice of the "Mystery Medley" to close part one came as a surprise but everyone seemed happy and Quo were applauded as they left the stage.
A few minutes to catch breath then Quo came back and Rick stood slap bang in the middle of the stage, white Tele in hand - that could only mean one thing, "Caroline" and the crowd are in full flow again. Next up came "Rain", followed by the ubiquitous "Anniversary Waltz", leading into "Living Doll" with Rick really having a laugh here. Any fears he'd gone soft on us were unfounded, as he broke from "Living Doll" into "Rock 'n' Roll Music" and inevitably "Bye Bye Johnny". The capacity crowd went wild throughout and Quo left the stage after an 85 minute performance. Communication between the band was noticeably poor in the gig, though, but the musical performance was as good as ever - if I'd have only seen one gig, then I'd have thought this was great....
Time to move cities again, this time the short distance from Koln to Oberhausen. No Christmas Market here so the Gluhwein was substituted (poorly) by McDonalds to ease the unpleasant wait in the queue at the Turbinenhalle. A dreary evening saw the early birds huddled together under what shelter the main entrance had to offer and it was welcome relief when the doors finally opened shortly before 7pm. T'Pau again kicked things off at 8pm to a well packed hall and played their standard 45-minutes to an appreciative audience. During one of their rockier tracks, the lead and bass guitar players got together centre stage and decided to take off Rick and Francis, "let's do Quo", with the swinging guitars - they had a good laugh over it and it was done in good humour. Yet again, the new Quo tracks flooded from the speakers after T'Pau left the stage and for the first time I heard the title track "Under The Influence". Just thirty minutes passed before the lights dimmed once more and the packed Turbinenhalle began to roar.
From the word go, the atmosphere in stage was so much better than the previous night's gig in Koln. Everyone was laughing and joking and that jollity transferred to the audience as well. The place rocked and the very same set was just in another league, this was a real Quo gig with all the things that make it special. It was no longer and no shorter, but better by degrees - the band stayed longer on stage to soak up the applause after "Bye Bye Johnny" and the slow return to lighting almost lulled us into believing another encore.
A short stagger from the Turbinenhalle to the Star Club for some of the Quo faithful and gig number two, in the shape of "Piledriver", the Dortmund-based Quo cover band. They took stage in the small club at about 11.15 and reeled out classic Quo song after classic Quo song with their usual perfection. All the songs we wanted to hear were there, like "Big Fat Mama" and "4500 Times" (even if shortened), and a funtime air guitar line-up (including yours truly) helped them along. Many encores later, the weary crowd dispersed after over three hours of live 'Quo' in one form or the other.
The next day again saw a change of city, this time the trek up to Bremen. A very historic and, more importantly, Christmas Market-holding city easily passed away the afternoon before the queuing started once more after an efficient tram ride out to the Pier 2 venue. The throbbing of the Quo soundcheck could be heard from far away, an unmistakable "Don't Waste My Time" being music to our ears. The dank evening ensured a welcome opening of doors and the usual rush to the front. Yet again, the hall was filled without trouble and T'Pau gave their all in their ever-improving support slot, Carol Decker rounding off with "China In Your Hand" sung sitting right above us on the stage. The new Quo songs were almost sounding familiar by now, but just 30 minutes later, Quo would appear for the last time on my German tour....
Off we go again, same set, same duration, same energy, same jokes - but nonetheless enjoyable for that. Great enthusiasm displayed by the band and some lovely moments with the crowd made this Bremen show work really well. Not quite as good as Oberhausen for me, but in excess of what we could expect. The crowd were eager and responsive and it's very noticeable in Germany how the whole hall gets involved unlike the UK where so many of the venues only see action in the front few rows these days.
Last stop of my tour came with the short trip from Bremen to Hannover and yet more Gluhwein and Christmas spirit. The busy week would come to a close with the fast ICE train back to Frankfurt airport and a flight back to the UK. Perhaps fated, while waiting in the airport, "Pictures of Matchstick Men" came over the PA, the closest thing to a teutonic farewell.
To summarise a special week in Germany and with Quo: