The Quireboys have always had a reputation as a fantastic live band: they were selling out venues like the renowned Marquee club in London within a year of their formation in 1984 without having released an album! Only charismatic Geordie frontman Spike and guitarist Guy Griffin remain from those early days, but the fairly constant flow of new recorded material since 2001’s reunion album This Is Rock ‘N’ Roll have shown that there is still life left in this band. On this current tour they are playing an all-acoustic set each night, a craft they have been honing since 2009’s acoustic album Halfpenny Dancer.
First though comes Curran: usually a five-piece but tonight only titular frontman Mark Curran is present along with guitarist Matt Pearce, ‘on loan’ from Brit hard rockers Voodoo Six. The duo have some decent tunes that translate well to an unplugged performance such as this, but most attempts at crowd interaction are largely answered with indifference. They at least manage to incite a singalong with a cover of Thin Lizzy’s rendition of ‘Rosalie’. Other than this, the greatest response comes when they ask if everybody is looking forward to the headliners; it’s clear who everybody here is interested in, and unfortunately for Curran, it’s not them.
When The Quireboys do hit the stage, Spike is straight in with the one-liners. Also down in number to four from their usual six-piece lineup for this tour. They are drummer and bassist-less, seemingly permanently due to the removal of their personal profiles on the band’s website. If this is the case, it comes as little surprise; these positions (particularly the drums) have operated on a consistent ‘revolving door’ basis over much of their career.
“Isn’t it nice not to have a fucking drummer!?” Jokes Spike at one point. “We’ve been through quite a few of them. I don’t remember that bloke from (antiques show) ‘Flog It’ (presenter Paul Martin) ever being in The Quireboys, though, no matter what he says!”
Jokes and anecdotes aside, the real reason everyone is here is for the music, and it certainly impresses. The bluesy stomp of ‘Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds You’ sets things off in style, and the title track of last year’s beautiful curse appears early. The acoustic setting gives the band ample opportunity to display their lighter side. There are ballads aplenty with the likes of ‘Roses and Rings’, ‘Mother Mary’ and ‘Mona Lisa Smiled’ (“A song so good we recorded it twice” quips Spike of the latter) prompting some lighter-waving from the crowd. For each of these more mellow moments though, there is a blues-rock party tune to lighten the mood and get people dancing. Early classics like ‘Misled’ and the almighty ‘7 O’Clock’ really pack a punch, and ‘Whippin’ Boy’ sounds particularly good tonight.
The show is not without its hiccups however: Paul Guerrin breaks a string at one point and is unable to get a response from his amplifier using his stand-by guitar, eliminating him for three songs of the set while he changes said string. Having said this, the band act professionally and manage to carry on decently enough without him, with keys man Keith Weir taking over soloing duties when needed.
“We can’t really get away with not playing this song” says Spike as they launch into the closing classic ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’. Personally, I don’t see how they managed to omit another early hit ‘Hey You’, but I guess maybe they thought it was not best suited to an acoustic remodelling. On the whole though, the night has been a success; the fans enjoyed it and the band were clearly having fun. It’s refreshing to see such a stripped-down and intimate performance, but has certainly whetted an appetite for a full-band, full throttle electric tour the next time around!