Would the absence of Rick Parfitt prevent Status Quo from rocking the O2? Michelle Godding finds out if the crowd accept no substitute.
Earlier in the year Status Quo announced ‘The Last Night Of The Electrics’ European tour with UK arena dates in December*. In a cruel twist of fate, Rick Parfitt suffered a heart attack in June this year, where he ‘died’ for several minutes. On doctor’s orders, he pulled out of the Autumn tour to aid his recovery.
In October, Rick stated that he would not be rejoining Status Quo after his recovery. He did not agree with the decision to hang up their Fender Telecasters and go completely ‘Aquostic’. Talking to Classic Rock’s Dave Ling, Rick said about returning, “No, I don’t think I really want to. In my heart I’m a rocker, I’ve always been. If I’m going to make music it’s got to rock”. However, he expressed his disappointment in not being able to complete the electric tour due to his health problems.
Refunds were offered to fans if they wished, due to Rick Parfitt’s absence. To many, the signature Status Quo sound was Rossi and Parfitt. They were the only two band members of the ‘Frantic Four’ line up to remain.
I hold this thought in my head as I travel to the O2 on December 11th. Would the fact that there would be only one original member on the stage deter fans from making the effort to attend? The answer is no. Walking into the arena, I am surrounded by a sea of double denim and Status Quo shirts. There is definitely an air of excitement.
To kill some time I order a large Mojito from one of the nearby bars in the enclosure. From my spot I watch legions of Status Quo fans making their way to their designated seating areas. Quickly finishing up my drink, I make my way into the arena to catch Illinois rockers REO Speedwagon.
They seem delighted to be here, opening with ‘Don’t Let Him Go’ and ‘Keep It On The Run’ from Hi Infidelity. The soft rocking tunes with added pop influence fill the space with Kevin Cronin’s powerful and familiar vocals bellowing from the speakers. The pace picks up with ‘Keep Pushin’ from R.E.O, returning to their roots briefly before keyboard player Neal Doughty plays the opening notes to ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’. The well known anthem is proceeded by the upbeat ‘Son Of A Poor Man’.
Up next, bassist Bruce Hall takes on the vocals, belting out ‘Back On The Road Again’ from Nine Lives – a favourite mainly because I’m a big fan of the album; this tune especially stands out. ‘Ridin’ The Storm Out’ follows, ensuring that the crowd (or at least me) are dancing with a tonne of energy. Of course, I can’t wait to hear my all time favourite REO song and sure enough they play it next. Their number one hit from Hi Infidelity ‘Keep On Loving you’- one of the best love songs of all time with its mix of piano, guitars and heartfelt lyrics. REO Speedwagon end their set with ‘Roll With The Changes’, an uplifting song from You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish.
This is exactly what is needed before Status Quo hit the stage. We have the chance to slow down before we start to boogie along to the classic Quo shuffle.
An atmospheric intro tape plays as the dim blue arena lights cast over the stage. I instantly recognise the melody from ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’. One of the soundtracks to the psychedelic ’60s and the times of the Mods and Rockers. It sets the tone for the legendary band that is about to appear before us. Once the suspense builds up sufficiently, Francis Rossi, Andrew Bown, John Edwards and Leon Cave assume their stage positions. New recruit, Irish guitarist Ritchie Malone joins them as guest guitarist, covering for Rick Parfitt.
Replacing Rick is not going to be easy, but as the last chord of the intro fades out, he effortlessly piles into the beginning of ‘Caroline’ from Hello! Coming from the much smaller band RAID, it must be an absolute dream to be on that stage. It’s pretty evident, because even though he’s playing perfectly well, his facial expression is one of pure wonder.
Initially facing away from us, Rossi starts playing and coolly turns to face the crowd as the rhythm section takes off. The crowd are well and truly up for it, clapping along to the beat. He scales the stage energetically, his recognisable cheeky chappy grin plastered on his face. As soon as he starts singing, the whole crowd joins in and it’s completely glorious to witness.
Status Quo are a no frills, meat and potatoes rock and roll band. A wide variety of the band’s back catalogue is covered, from Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon right up to In Search Of The Fourth Chord. Certain songs are expected, such as, ‘Down Down’, ‘Whatever You Want’ and ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’. Personal favourites also get a look in which include ‘Railroad’ and ‘Roll Over Lay Down’. You can’t help but dance along to the latter, pumping your fists in the air to the pounding beat.
Francis Rossi is on top form, having a bit of banter with the crowd in between songs. Everyone seems to be in a genuinely good mood. The classic covers that we all love ‘Something ’bout You Baby I Like’ and ‘The Wanderer’, are both included. Multi talented Andy Bown takes a break from keyboard duties during ‘Down The Dustpipe’ to have a go at the guitar and harmonica.
A lot of fans were dubious about how well these gigs would turn out. Even though there is the noticeable absence of Rick Parfitt, Ritchie Malone does a superb job. This is made better by knowing that Rick has given them his blessing and is focused on staying healthy. And there is no better way to end the set of the last electric tour with the cover of ‘Rock And Roll Music/ Bye Bye Johnny’. After all, Chuck Berry was one of the pioneers of rock and roll music…
The next London Status Quo Date will be an ‘Aqoustic’ one at the Royal Albert Hall, 2017.
*Support in London from The Lounge Kittens.