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Unplugged band on crowded stage
In the past few years the classic Status Quo line-up has reformed as the Frantic Four for a couple of tours, frontman Francis Rossi has played a series of solo shows and the current 'Quo-lite' fivesome has continued performing in arenas and at festivals.
So what would the veteran band surprise us with next? A best-selling acoustic album and a cracking series of shows with a string section, accordion player and backing singers is the answer.
Unplugged: Rick Parfitt, Francis Rossi and Andy Bown, with backing singer Hannah Rickard at Wolverhampton Civic Hall
For dedicated Quo followers it was strange to see Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt, Andy Bown, Rhino Edwards and Rhino's guitar-playing son, Freddie, seated in a line at the front of the stage.
After all, Quo are known for their high energy electric shows, with Rossi bouncing around, trading quips with Parfitt and Edwards.
Joining them on stage were a six-piece string section (violins, viola and cello), two backing singers, a percussionist alongside drummer Leon Cave, and accordionist Geraint Watkins. There was no room for Rossi to move, even if he wanted to!
Crowded stage: Andy Bown, Geraint Watkins and Rhino Edwards
The thing is, it worked. The songs – many of them Quo classics or tracks from early album – were stripped down but then extra layers were added using strings and accordion which gave them a new fresh feel. And the band, especially Rossi, seemed totally laid back and relaxed.
The tone was set after opener And It's Better Now. A roadie strolled on stage with Rossi's spectacles which, no doubt, he'd forgotten to put on. He joked that one of the advantages of doing the seated show was that he could wear his glasses and therefore could see the audience. Those in first few rows who left to get a drink during the show were watched with eagle eyes by Mr Rossi!
Making a spectacle: Francis Rossi
He also said he would be able to see anyone yawning. Not that there was any chance of that as the ensemble powered through 24 songs in 90 minutes.
Tracks like Mystery Song, Pictures of Matchstick Men and All the Reasons took on a whole new dimension with the addition of strings, while a shuffle beat Caroline sounded fantastic with the Cajun-tinged accordion.
String theory: Freddie Edwards and Rick Parfitt with string section
One observation. As well as the band, the audience were all seated (for the Frantic Four gigs in Wolverhampton there were no chairs in the stalls). We were itching to stand and, dare I say it, get out the air acoustic guitars, as is normal at a Quo gig. But it didn't happen till the encore of Rock 'til You Drop and Burning Bridges. Maybe the crowd thought it was rude to stand when the band remained in their seats.
Acoustic: Rick Parfitt
The tour continues on Friday, April 24, at Portsmouth Guildhall, Sunday, April 26, at London's Eventim Apollo and Thursday, April 30, at the Royal Albert Hall.
Set List And It's Better Now
Break the Rules
Again and Again
Mystery Song/ Little Lady
Rock 'n' Roll
What You're Proposing
Pictures of Matchstick Men
Down the Dustpipe
All the Reasons
Reason for Living
Don't Drive My Car
Na Na Na
Whatever You Want
Rockin' All Over the World
Rock 'til You Drop
Burning Bridges (On and Off and On Again)