Francis Rossi graces Whitehaven
Rocking all over Whitehaven
By Guy Little
BBC Blast Reporter, Guy Little, gets down (deeper and down), with one of the biggest selling British rock bands of all time.
Who’s sold 118 million albums worldwide? Who’s had over 60 UK chart hits? Who’s had a career spanning over 40 years? The only band to outsell them in Britain is The Rolling Stones.
Yeah, you guessed correct. It’s the three-chord wonders, Status Quo. And they’re in Whitehaven, for one night only.
The world famous rockers are in town to headline an open air concert at the Recreation Ground - the home to Whitehaven RFLC, to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Royal Act for the town’s harbour.
The Quo were backed by three local bands. Gobstopper, Weathered Rock and Ruffkut had the honours.
What do you get if you cross Garry Glitter with Slade? Yes, an insanely cheesy band indeed, but also, you get Gobstopper - a glam rock band hailing from Barrow. Without a doubt they were entertaining, but whether this was for the right reasons is a mystery. They did, however, end of a good note. T-Rex’s 20th Century Boy was a particular crowd pleaser.
Support act, Gobstopper
Up next was Weathered Rock - a group of four Sellafield workers taking us back in time for classic rock anthems such as Wishing Well, Jailbreak and Whole Lotta Rosie. They said we’d be entertained. Well, we were, just about.
Finally, before the direct support we had Ruffkut. Ruffkut play, self-proclaimed, ‘finest Cumbrian rock’, storming into their set with the toe-tapping punk classic, Teenage Kicks. Ruffkut features Mike Little on drums, also one of the committee directors that helped organise the event.
The first three bands came to a close just before 7 o' clock. Overall these bands were generically the same, they all sounded the same, played the same songs (we heard Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak twice), which made for a slightly uninteresting wait for the next band.
You could have easily listened to the first band, came back two hours later to hear the last band and assume that they were the same group. They all did entertain the crowd still, (a little bit) with their cheesy shenanigans and song selection, slightly reminiscent of the whole rock star dreams you have as a kid.
It was like watching the adverts for those cheesy Father’s Day, ‘Dad rocks’ CDs, although not as bad as those irritating, ear cringing, DFS adverts. Which is a good thing, I suppose.
John Mitchell, It Bites
Calling all the...people that remember It Bites?
I do have a confession to make, I watched It Bites thinking, ‘Where’s Francis?’
But, who cares? Their new frontman, John Mitchell, is fantastic. I thought they’d be hard pushed to find a new singer who could deliver as Dunnery once did. But, he’s long forgotten as Mitchell takes the stage playing and singing the It Bites back catalogue just as good, if not better than his predecessor.
As expected, we did have to wait a little longer for them to take the stage, as they cleared the other support acts’ equipment but all was well with the crowd, who were now packing in to the Recreation Ground in their thousands.
With only two original band members left, (John Beck and Bob Dalton), the Cumbrian rockers hit the stage all dressed in white, which was slightly amusing as one of the first songs in their set was the minor 80’s hit, All in Red.
It Bites original member, John Beck
The band didn’t disappoint as they delivered the all-impressive vocal/keyboard melodies that was apparent 20 years ago, ripping through striking versions of Yellow Christian and Kiss like Judas, from their 1988 offering, Once Around The World.
It didn’t seem to matter that the majority of the crowd didn’t know most of the songs, the sheer energy that came from the group transcended their one-hit wonder status.
The band finished on their number 6 UK chart hit, and undoubtedly the only one anyone knew, Calling All The Heroes.
‘Oh yeah, it’s that song,’ people muffled, whilst attempting to sing along. The set was surprisingly good. It was, powerful, energetic, entertaining and warmly welcomed by the Whitehaven crowd.
After all, the man on the keys, John Beck, is a born and bred Cumbrian!
Rick rocks Whitehaven
The main act
Stage cleared, huge white amplifiers stared at the audience, drums perched on a riser - it was time for The Quo.
People were clearly ‘feeling good’ about seeing the British rockers – nearly everyone with a blow up guitar, some even dressed as the two main men, Rick and Francis!
The lights illuminated the stage in a shroud of purple mist but this isn’t what everyone’s eyes were fixed on. They were looking through the gaps in the security fences for the two men that brought them 60 UK hits. Francis and Rick strutted to the stage and were visible for a split second to which the crowd roared.
The veterans erupted on stage playing the same riff they’ve done for the last 30 years and opened their set with the hit, Caroline, prompting the audience to sing along in unison.
The amplifiers were cranked to 10, and the noise from the drums could be felt pelting your chest. The background lights, I must admit, looked pretty rubbish before Quo came on, and they seemed disjointed. But as the set opened the lights spelt out Quo! The lights now looked insanely cool.
Rick and Francis take the stage
Only three songs in, and we were treat to the trademark guitar swinging that we all picture when we hear Status Quo, as they played their current single, Beginning of the End. This comes from their latest album, In Search of the Fourth Chord - which by the way, they still haven’t found. The song was nonetheless, as catchy as ever. I couldn’t stop my foot tapping along!
This foot-tapping happened to continue as they burst in to, Hold You Back, another song to which the crowd howled along to. The atmosphere was intense as ever, the lights, the band, the crowd, and the songs. Everyone was having a ball. Well, nearly all of us, Francis joked at the ‘cold British weather’ as he rubbed his chest. The rain did hold off until half way through the set, when it decided we’d had enough of the good weather.
But this didn’t discourage the fans - unless you were subject to the enormous drips cascading from the front of the stage’s hood.
One fan in the audience had been stood next to me the whole time, occasionally watching me write, and not so subtly, trying to read my shorthand notes (he tapped his wife and asked her if she knew what it was). He asked me how I was going to describe the concert, to which he replied, before I had a chance, ‘middle-aged euphoria.’ – I couldn’t agree more. At this point the man felt he had a new friend and I suddenly had my arms flung in the air to wave along and sway to, In The Army Now. I couldn’t believe I was stood swaying to a Status Quo song (which didn’t really warrant swaying) – very rock and roll! I felt I should’ve been at a Neil Diamond gig swaying to Mandy.
Rick Parfitt on stage at Whitehaven
The 6000-strong crowd blew their tops when the opening chords to, Whatever You Want, were played, jumping up and down. For a moment, as the spot light shone on Rick strumming away, it was hard to believe we were stood in Whitehaven’s rugby ground! Certainly a ‘Wembley moment,’ reminiscent of their Live Aid glory.
Quo were as lively as ever, jumping up and down, dominating the stage – surprising, as these are some of the oldest rockers in Britain, which proved to be extremely entertaining to stand and watch for over an hour and half.
Status Quo certainly pulled out all the stops, playing all the biggest hits from their impressive 30 years plus, in the business. The set came to a close on one that we’d all been waiting for, well I had anyway. Rocking All Over The World.
Whitehaven shook at its foundations, as the crowd yelled the chorus, and cheered for more at the end. They returned for an encore and the whole crowd suddenly turned 17 again as they basked in Status Quo’s infections rhythms and energy – what a night!
last updated: 07/08/2008 at 09:32