After a full day's sightseeing around Amsterdam, we headed down to the Leidseplein area of the city at about 6pm. The Melkweg venue was a stone's throw from the main square and it was interesting to see a music venue on stilts over water, how very Dutch! A small crowd was lurking around the entrance in readiness for the Francis show, with a number of Quo T-shirts in evidence. Two of the huge green Quo tour buses had set up camp immediately outside the venue and we saw Francis meandering between the buses and the venue, whistling away contentedly. With a little while before the doors opened, an open air drink in the main square was rewarded with sightings of Paul Hirsch, Bernadette and her mother, Nick Rossi and nearly every member of Quo's crew.
Heading back to the Melkweg at just before 7pm, it wasn't long before we were let in. A small merchandise booth had been set up with both Rossi and North gear on offer and we soon discovered that the gig had been moved from its original venue (The Max) to the Oude Zaal, a smaller room (700 capacity) with a balcony (that would not be open for this gig). Given the small initial crowd, it was easy to take up residence on the front row, slightly stage left.
By the time The North took the Melkweg stage at 7.55, a decent sized crowd had gathered and they made the band feel very welcome. B obviously regretted her choice of stage attire (a ridiculously short flowery dress) but the front row didn't seem to mind! Their 40-minute set included a few songs I hadn't heard before, but the best reaction was reserved for their excellent interpretation of "In My Chair". As always, the band were very loud and energetic and their efforts were well rewarded by the Amsterdam crowd. In case we'd all forgotten why we were there, B signed off with "Next up is Papa Rossi"!
It was the familiar sight of Lloyd and co. clearing the stage that passed the next half an hour or so. Rhino was also in residence and it was nice of him to come over and say hello and ask me to catch up with him after the show. He was also very generous with his time with many other fans who were keen to talk with him and get photos. The atmosphere built nicely during this interval with a packed house of friendly and good-natured fans awaiting their idol.
At 9pm sharp, Francis wandered onto the stage and simply said "Hello" before launching into the slow version of "Caroline". Joining him were Paul Hirsch on keyboards, Nick Rossi and Freddie Edwards on guitars, Gary Twigg on bass, Leon Cave on drums and backing singers Amy and Amber. "Claudie" was up next and then "All We Really Wanna Do" which proved itself to be a great live inclusion. Francis enjoyed plenty of audience interaction though appeared to be a little nervous and forgot lyrics aplenty. He soon worked up a sweat too under the close lighting and, at one stage, was heard to mutter "I should give up the day job".
While there were no surprises in the set (being the same as the May 2010 shows), songs like "Diggin' Burt Bacharach" and "Tongue Tied" were genuine surprise successes - while "Tongue Tied" remains one of my least favourite Quo tracks on record, it was brilliant live with great audience singalong adding much to its appeal. Freddie proved himself a very capable performer with some excellent lead guitar work, including a note perfect rendition in "Tongue Tied" with the proud Mr Edwards looking on.
All too soon, it was encore time and a relaxed performance of "Don't Waste My Time" to round things off. The Dutch crowd gave Francis a fond farewell and an engaging ninety minutes came to an end. The affable crowd milled around for a while after the show ended and I caught up with Rhino (who was clearly enjoying catching up with Paul too), before heading out into a very wet evening in Amsterdam.Revisit the September 2010 event list
After the gig in Amsterdam, we spent the next morning travelling by high speed train to Antwerp in readiness for the second of this round of Francis Rossi solo shows. Arriving at the massive and impressive Antwerp station, we were astonished by the amount of diamond shops in the station and the surrounding Diamond Quarter, this really is the diamond capital of the world! A wander around the historic old city passed the afternoon and it was soon time to head a little way out of the city for the night's gig.
We took the tram to the stop recommended by the venue and were unceremoniously dumped in no man's land with no indication of where to go next. Trying to get our bearings, we managed to spot the three green Quo tour buses in the distance and so headed in their general direction and, heh presto, we arrived at the Trix club at about 7pm. A small group of fans was lurking around outside and inside the entrance to the venue, where a small printed sign indicated that the doors wouldn't open until 8pm. I say "doors", it was actually more like a cage that would eventually open on time at 8pm and let the small crowd into the main venue area. The venue was intimate, similar in size to the room at the Melkweg the night before but with some tables and chairs at the back around a more formal bar area.
They didn't leave us waiting long, with The North hitting the stage at 8.20 and performing the same support set as in Amsterdam. B had opted for somewhat more appropriate stage attire consisting of a lacy top and tight short skirt and her mum filmed their set in its entirety. B complained that she hadn't managed to try Belgian waffles or chcoloate, I'm guessing due to the location of the venue as there was not much in the way of shops and restaurants around it, being on the fringe of the city of Antwerp. The set was well received by the small crowd and The North's performance had a little more polish than that of the previous night.
The interval saw lots of fans making the most of photo opportunities with B around the merchandise stand and the crowd swelled to 200-250 with a nice atmosphere developing. I met up with several Belgian fans I hadn't seen for 15 years or more and also had a good chat with old friend Philippe Duponteil. Meanwhile the familiar members of Quo's crew had set up the stage for Francis and the lights dimmed right on cue at 9.30.
Francis wandered onto the stage and again simply said "Hello", commenting about the heat (it was very warm inside the venue now) and quickly removing his long coat. Right from the start, he appeared to be much more relaxed than the first gig in Amsterdam and was readily joking with the crowd, other band members and Lloyd during later guitar problems. I opted to stand further back at this gig as the crowd was small enough that a good view was assured from a few rows back and, as a result, enjoyed a much better sound here than the Amsterdam show. The mix was fantastic in fact, with the female backing vocals adding depth to the overall soundstage and Paul's keyboard and harmonica work coming to the fore.
Freddie again did very well, looking quite the seasoned performer and again nailing the "Tongue Tied" solo, resulting in knowing glances across from Mr Rossi. Nick was also a star and much more relaxed here showing off his skills both on lead guitar and vocals (assisting with forgotten lyrics along the way!). Stand-out songs for me were "Blessed Are The Meek", "Tongue Tied", "One Step At A Time" (with a memorable vocal performance from Francis), "Diggin' Burt Bacharach" and "Don't Waste My Time" (with plenty of superb improvisation from Francis).
The band left the stage to warm applause from an appreciative crowd at 11pm and this was overall a better performance than that in Amsterdam (albeit to a somewhat disappointingly small crowd) with Francis being more relaxed and the band gelling as a unit after playing themselves in the night before.Revisit the September 2010 event list
To complete our three gigs in three countries in three days, we left Antwerp early on the 15th and caught a local train to Brussels where we then picked up Eurostar for a very rapid transit back to UK shores and the magnificent St Pancras station. We killed a few hours in and around Kings Cross and Camden before heading out to Old Street on the tube to find the venue for the evening's final Francis Rossi solo show.
As we wandered along Old Street itself, we spotted fellow Aussie travellers Gary and Marguerita and walked with them the short distance to LSO St Luke's. A small queue had already formed by 5pm outside this impressive old church but the chilly evening air forced us into a local pub (The Trader) instead, where a number of Quo fans were already in residence (including Alan Crook). Heading back to the church at about 6.45, we were soon inside and fitted with our exclusive armbands before exploring the gorgeous interior of the venue. It's not every gig where you head to the bar in "The Crypt"! Before the gig started, a young lady from the venue had the unfortunate task of telling the audience some housekeeping rules especially around the filming of the gig for the DVD release...
The North made an early start, hitting the large stage at 7.20pm and banging out the same 40-minute support set as in Amsterdam and Antwerp. The presence of cameras brought out the best in both B's performance and the reaction of the crowd and no doubt she'll look good on the finished DVD product. The band managed to step up their performance a notch or two again to produce their best set of the three gigs with a noticeably tighter effort and great audience interaction (the best reception, of course, being reserved for "In My Chair").
The interval would be relatively short, but we took the chance to get a photo with Bernadette and then watched the main room fill up nicely, with many choosing to sport the exclusive T-shirt on offer at this event! The filming setup was impressive, with one track-mounted camera at the rear of the room, one boom camera and one mobile camera working the front of the stage. A professional photo setup also appeared on the upstairs balcony.
Francis took the stage at 8.30pm sharp and was accompanied by three female backing singers, as opposed to the familiar two at the previous gigs. The stage looked fantastic with the stunning backdrop of the big windows and illuminated trees behind and Pat's efforts to complement the venue worked beautifully. The sound was also excellent in this space and the crowd lapped up the now familiar set, putting on an enthusiastic show for the cameras. The crowd mikes will hopefully pick up how vocal the crowd was here on the DVD.
Francis seemed a little uncomfortable with the cameras to begin with, but soon relaxed and gave his tighest performance of the three gigs here. He did still forget lots of lyrics, but less so than at the other gigs and some of the inter-song banter might end up being cut from the DVD I suspect!
The 90 minutes was all over far too soon, but this was a memorable performance within a truly stunning venue and hopefully the DVD will provide a suitably stunning record of this impressive show for posterity.Revisit the September 2010 event list
The unveiling of a plaque to mark Quo's first ever gig - at the former site of the Welcome Inn in Well Hall Road, Eltham, where Quo first performed in 1967 - took place on September 20th. Both Rick and Francis attended the ceremony and the unveiling was performed by PRS Chairman Ellis Rich.
The PRS for Music "Heritage Award" plaque was placed on the block of flats now occupying the site, after the pub burnt down in 2006. A reception followed at The Royal Blackheath Golf Club in Eltham.Revisit the September 2010 event list
When the Variety Club announced that they were holding a tribute lunch to honour Quo's 45 years in the business as well as their contribution to charity, it was hard to resist changing our travel plans in the UK just a little to fit in attendance at this event. It turned out to be a great decision as this was one of those "once in a lifetime" Quo experiences that make being a Quo fan so special.
September 23rd dawned grey and showery over London town and by the time we were making our way to the Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane, it was raining heavily. We were probably in the minority of guests attending the event in that we opted to travel by tube, so a last-minute umbrella purchase was in order to protect our finery on the short walk from the tube station to the hotel. On arrival at the front of the hotel, we noted the various fancy cars parked out the front, a sign of the clientelle we would soon be mixing with inside the famous Dorchester.
After meeting up with the other eight members of the "Quo fans" VIP table in the splendid reception area of the hotel, it was soon time to enter the "VIP reception" at midday. Our group arrived right at the start and, after stocking up on champagne and picking up the nice programme (which included a full-page advert for the "Goin' Quoin'" book) and guest list, the serious business of celebrity spotting could begin. The reception was held in a fairly small room and the members of Quo and their partners were in early too, so it was easy to say hello to them all before things got too packed. The stars just kept coming and it was common to turn around and find someone famous standing right next to us! During this time, we saw many well-known names including Chris Tarrant, Roy Wood, Billy Murray (ex Eastenders and The Bill), John Altman (aka Nick Cotton!) and Bill Wyman (as well as Miss England who'd been drafted in to provide some eye-candy and photo opportunities). The half-hour reception was over far too quickly and we were soon ushered into the main room for the afternoon's festivities.
We were delighted to discover that the Quo fan table was in a great position, just to the right of the stage and with an excellent view of proceedings. The members of Quo and their partners occupied the table closest to the front and centre of the stage, with Bill Wyman and his wife as their guests. The afternoon would notionally be hosted by Chris Tarrant (with occasional help from ex-Tiswas colleague Sally James), but there were also speeches and presentations from various senior members of the Variety Club during the event. The lunch itself was splendid fare and there was always something happening on stage, especially between courses. The tribute lunch auction raised plenty of money and the two Quo-related items up for grabs went to high bids (a signed white Telecaster and the chance to be "Roadie for the Day", thankfully not won by Jilly Johnson despite her efforts to do so!). The "In The Army Now (2010)" video was aired for the first time and received a great reception from this audience, which numbered in excess of 300 by the time all had arrived.
Tributes to Quo came thick and fast. From within the room, Jilly Johnson, Ed Stewert, Nick Owen, Bill Wyman and Paul Gambaccini all had nice things to say, whilst recorded messages included those from Richard Hammond and Eddie Jordan. There were many other famous faces around the room including Pip Williams, Simon Bates, Vanessa Feltz, Tony Hadley, Roger Taylor, John Altman (aka Nick Cotton) & his lovely mum, and Billy Murray (aka DS Beech from The Bill).
The finale saw Quo taking the stage for a short live performance and it was great to see the surge towards the stage as Quo kicked off with "Caroline". Any sense of formality disappeared as the music took over and I was amazed to find myself right up front, dancing next to a grinning Chris Tarrant throughout the short set. "Whatever You Want" was next and then the closing "Rockin' All Over The World" with some excellent crowd singing to send the band off on a high. The band were then presented with a Variety Club "Silver Heart" before leaving the stage.
At the 4pm closing, no-one was in a huge hurry to leave and most stayed around for quite a while after Quo's set had finished. The members of the band stayed for photos and chats with friends and fans, and many other celebrities were generous with their time as well, before the room finally started to clear after 5pm.
As a few of us made our way out of the hotel and along Park Lane, we spotted Rick in "The Bar" so decided to head there and see who else was around. Rick and Lyndsey had taken up residence at the bar and Andy Bown was also mingling, so we opted to stay. Hazel got the first round in and was surprised (not pleasantly) when handed the bill! The surroundings were opulent and the place was actually packed despite the ludicrous bar prices, but it was a good spot to hang out for the next couple of hours. Eventually, we called it a night (it was only 8pm in fact, but we'd had an early start!) and headed back to the tube after what was one of the most unique and memorable Quo events we've ever had the pleasure to attend.
Hats off to the Variety Club for recognizing the band in this way, to Quo for taking it in their stride, and to the large number of guests who helped raise significant funds for this worthy cause. Our thanks must go to the other members of the VIP table for making us feel so welcome, so cheers to Simon & Grace, Daisy, Hazel, Yvonne & Paul, and Mr & Mrs Mortified.Revisit the September 2010 event list
Arriving at Twickenham train station, we had a twenty-minute walk to the site of Rhythm Force 2010 at the Royal Military School of Music's Kneller Hall. The late afternoon had turned into early evening with the corresponding chilliness that sets in as the sun goes down, but at least it was dry even if the stiff breeze was distinctly chilly. There were large crowds in evidence on foot and major traffic jams around the mighty Twickenham Stadium as we approached the venue. It was somewhat unusual to see guys and girls in military attire marshalling the crowds and taking tickets!
On entering the main site at 6.45pm, it was clear that a very large crowd would eventuate for this show. A sizeable audience had already taken up position, mainly in fold-up chairs a little back from the stage, leaving the "standing" area relatively quiet and it was easy to take up a second row position on the right side of the stage. As one might have expected, the event started with military precision on the stroke of 7pm (and the announcement of an 8,000-strong crowd).
First up were Monck, formed from the Band of the Coldstream Guards. They were soon followed by Drop o' The Good Stuff, from the band of The Royal Regiment of Scotland.
The first of the major support acts was up next in the shape of Ray Quinn. Made famous by his appearances on the X-Factor and Dancing On Ice, Ray has gone on to become a swing star and is currently starring in the musical, Dirty Dancing. The elegant young man was accompanied by the excellent Army Big Band and his Sinatra/Buble style won over the crowd as he marched through hit after hit done in swing style, rounding out with a rousing rendition of "My Way". Although not your typical warm-up for a Quo concert, his performance was professional and enjoyable and he got the crowd on side early and kept them with him throughout his set.
Three more military outfits then proceeded to take the stage. First up, Ripchord from the Parachute Regiment, then the very unusual outfit of The Stripes from the Band and Bugles of the Rifles, and finally, The Sonics from the Band of The Kings Division.
The second big name support act followed, in New Zealand stunner, Hayley Westenra. Although she got a few wolf-whistles and heckles as she took the stage in a skimpy top and short skirt, a deadly silence fell over the large crowd as soon as she began to sing. Her eclectic set was backed by a military strings section and her angelic voice was simply stunning. Her set was split across two sessions and overall she was very well-received despite again being an unusual warm-up for Quo! The interval between her sets was given over to The Soldiers, a popular military outfit who have already had a hit debut album.
The Quo crew would have a tough job ahead of them during the very short break and Lloyd and co. were frantically scurrying around to clear the stage and set up for Quo. One of the crew received great applause following his entertaining efforts with the Quo vacuum cleaner and it was a remarkable turnaround time that saw the stage ready for Quo in less than thirty minutes. To help the masses pass the time, the first public airing of the new "In The Army Now (2010)" video hit the big screens and it was spectacularly well-received by this somewhat biased audience!
Quo appeared at about 9.45pm, with Francis sporting a fleece top to protect himself from the chill wind blowing across the stage. At the first talk break, he mentioned the cold and also talked about the reasons for them being there, resulting in a great reaction from the crowd. The set was the standard one-hour festival fare, but for a rather special rendition of "In The Army Now". Francis had a lyric sheet to work from for the new words, a sergeant appeared for the "Stand Up and Fight" line, and a military choir appeared behind the low end of the "wall of death" for the closing choruses of the new version - what a great performance of this song and, again, a real favourite for this crowd.
All of the band seemed up for the gig and delighted the large crowd, with massive singalongs for the big songs and a rousing "Rockin' All Over The World" finale. This was a top effort from the band for a "no fee" gig, the light show was also worthy of special mention, and the crew did an amazing job under a tight schedule.
A decent fireworks display rounded out a top night's entertainment for a bargain ticket price of just twenty pounds and the large crowd was good natured in its departure into the cold night of Twickenham. All the acts were very well-received and the military bands were well supported by family and friends.
Some superb photos of all the acts on stage at Rhythm Force 2010 can be found here.Revisit the September 2010 event list
The following press release on 6th September announced Quo's rerecording of "In The Army Now" in aid of the British Forces Foundation and Help for Heroes.
"On 27th September 2010, Quo will release a brand new version of their classic hit "In The Army Now" through Universal / UMTV. The original track is approaching its 25th anniversary and, upon release in 1986, became one of the biggest-selling records of the '80s worldwide. All profits from this updated and lyrically-reworked version of a true fan favourite will be donated equally to the British Forces Foundation and Help For Heroes charities. The former boosts the morale of servicemen and women on the frontline and in operational theatres all over the world, primarily through high quality entertainment, and the latter provides direct, practical support for injured service personnel.
Francis Rossi said, "It seemed like the right time to do this. This release is intended to show our support for the Allied Forces around the world, but in particular, of course, the British Armed Forces. We want people to celebrate what they do, say thank you and also support these vital charities."
The stunning video was recorded at the Kiwi Barracks of the 4-Rifles regiment and on location at the National Tank Museum and is rammed with hilarious footage of the band being put through their paces on the drill square, getting behind the wheel of some seriously heavy military hardware, and much more. The video is an unalloyed triumph and a testament to the work of the British Army. The band were so enamoured by the Sergeant Major who took charge of them that they asked him to deliver the classic "Stand Up And Fight!" line on the single.
Recorded just weeks ago at the Vestry Hall of the London College of Music, the track was, once again, produced by Pip Williams. This 2010 recording also features male and female backing singers from the Corps of Army Music. This release comes ahead of the brand new Status Quo studio album slated for release in Summer 2011.
The "In The Army Now" single is aimed at refocusing attention on the amazing job being done for us around the world by the Armed Forces and also in raising some much needed funds to better support those who need it most. Status Quo are delighted to get involved with these two charities and hope that the British public connect with the campaign too."
The re-recording received a message of support from Prime Minister David Cameron: "I think this re-recording is a fantastic idea. It's a great way for people to show their appreciation of our armed forces. And it's raising money for two brilliant organisations which do so much for our troops. I hope many people will join me in supporting this."
A further message of support came from The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall: "My wife and I would like to express our warmest gratitude to you for supporting Help for Heroes and the British Forces Foundation, two incredibly worthwhile charities that do so much to assist our country's servicemen and women.
The dedicated and courageous members of our Armed Forces risk life and limb every day in the service of their country. Sadly, some of them, serving in countries such as Afghanistan, will experience life-changing physical and mental injuries. Charities such as Help for Heroes and the British Forces Foundation, of which I am proud to be Patron, do so much to alleviate suffering, support recovery and convey the gratitude of the British public for the sacrifices they make on a daily basis. The recently opened Help for Heroes Rehabilitation Complex at Headley Court provides excellent facilities for our injured service personnel, while the BFF has done so much to raise the morale of the troops with its series of concerts and performances.
Support for our injured Servicemen and women, and for the organizations that aid their recovery, comes in many forms and I am so delighted that Status Quo have chosen to re-release this single in aid of these very worthwhile causes. We wish them every possible success."
The UK single was released on Universal (with catalogue number B00406V860), while there was also a German "mini-album" release (on Ear Music, catalogue number 05697ERE) featuring the single, plus five live songs, the bonus tracks from "In Search Of The Fourth Chord" and two videos (for the songs "Beginning Of The End" and "In The Army Now (2010)").Revisit the September 2010 event list