The Mayfair may be long gone but the Quireboys continue to keep Newcastle’s rock n roll reputation alive. As Spike and co. prepare to bring a busy 2014 to a close, this is what we learned.
Play to the crowd and the crowd will play along Spike is one of rock’n’roll’s great survivors and it’s a breath of fresh air to see this genuinely endearing frontman play to his hometown crowd on the banks of the Tyne. He might not remember all of the words all of the time, but the decision to debut What Do You Want From Me?, despite pre-show misgivings, proves to be a triumphant move. Of course what a Newcastle crowd really wants from the Quireboys is as much Geordie jingoism as it’s possible to pack into 90 minutes and that’s exactly what they get: references to Alan Pardew, the Mayfair, the Tyne Bridge et al are greeted with roars of approval as Spike holds aloft his bottle of Brown Ale like a king with his sceptre. Bedford-based guitarist Guy Griffin looks on utterly bemused.
Like a fine wine, the Quireboys are getting better with age On sale for the first time on this tour, the remastered version of 2001’s This Is Rock N Roll serves as a timely reminder that the loss of major label support and chart success doesn’t always spell the end. It’s the comeback album that persuaded Spike and Griffin that the Quireboys weren’t finished yet, and 13 years later they’re enjoying their most successful year to date. This 30th anniversary set includes big hits Hey You, Seven O’Clock and There She Goes Again but Mona Lisa Smiled, Beautiful Curse and Stubborn Kinda Heart comfortably steal the show.
**Keith Weir plays piano like Lionel Messi plays football **There’s quality aplenty coursing through the Quireboys’ ranks these days but understated Ulsterman Keith Weir has his own chant for a reason. Ditching the flat cap for a prohibition-era hat, it’s a relief to learn that the tinkler’s edgy new style hasn’t usurped the undeniable substance underpinning another masterclass in musicianship. Doubling up as the Down N Outz’ keyboard colonel-in-chief, Weir is in demand and on fire.
**A three-decade search for a decent drummer finally appears over **Spike jokes that Dave McCluskey is the Quireboys’ 29th drummer but it’s no laughing matter. The band’s long search for a reputable rhythm section has hindered their progress in the past but an often painful period of flux appears over. For now. McCluskey has used The Union’s indefinite hiatus as an opportunity to make the Quireboys’ seat his own, and his impact alongside bass player Nick Mailing is remarkable. The Glaswegian is some striker but as far as the Quireboys are concerned this drummer’s a keeper.
What the band says:
Guy Griffin: It’s been a bit hectic this year and Paul, Keith and myself are going straight from this tour to a run of shows with Down N Outz. But all you ask for a as a working musician is to be busy. We wanted to be in this position for years so nobody’s complaining now that we’re here.
Paul Guerin: I’m very proud of the new material. We love playing songs from Black Eyed Sons and Beautiful Curse and the fans are happy to let us squeeze a few into the set. I’ve been off the drink for three weeks but you can’t play a Newcastle show with the Quireboys and not celebrate with the odd frothy one.
Spike: My mam and my sisters were here and Paul’s missus made a surprise trip north so it was very much a family affair. I miss the Mayfair and I remember the old Riverside. But this new venue is a great addition to the Toon’s music scene.
Keith Weir: This is a great time to be part of the Quireboys. The band had a lot of commercial success when Sharon Osborne was managing them but I’m not sure if we’ve ever been as popular as we are now. It’s not been easy keeping rock and roll alive but the hard work’s finally paying off.