When Spike conceived the Quireboys in a London flat 28 years ago he must have dreamed of nights like this.
It’s all well and good going down a storm at Download and opening up for Guns N Roses in Europe but home is where the heart is. And where it’s always been.
In front of his family, friends and those Quireboys fans who never, ever miss a Newcastle show, one of rock n roll’s most endearing frontmen was in the form of his life.
Spike’s graced far bigger stages and played in front of crowds 100 times the size but up and close and personal the boy’s a bit special.
He might forget the odd word (and admit it!), come close to decapitating his band mates with his favourite mic stand manoeuvre and roll out the same old jokes at guitarist Guy Griffin’s expense but it’s all part of the charm. And Spike boasts charm by the bucket load.
Reserving a special welcome for guests Robbie Elliott and Phil Gray, the singer made a point of lauding the duo’s 3,500-mile charity cycle ride from Lisbon to Newcastle in memory of the late England manager Sir Bobby Robson.
The Quireboys recorded the fundraiser’s official song, Biking For Bobby, and will use it as their intro. tape across the UK. Elliott, a former Newcastle United full back, and Gray had never seen the band live but now they know what they’ve been missing. No doubt they’ll be back.
Like the rest of a partisan crowd, the two Quireboys rookies couldn’t avoid being caught up in a full-blown rock n roll hurricane. Griffin was on fire as he mixed punchy power chords with emotive blues scales and sidekick Paul Guerin excelled on the songs (Mother Mary and Too Much Of A Good Thing) showcased from 2013’s new album.
If the band’s rhythm section was difficult to spot – drummer Matt Goom was so far back he could have been in Sunderland – then they never missed a beat and keys man Keith responded to his small but vocal army of fans by tinkling like his life depended on it.
Hey You – the band’s biggest hit and still a bona fide rock anthem – brought the house down but ballads Mona Lisa Smiled and I Don’t Love You Anymore have never sounded better than they do right now. Guerin and Griffin give each song the space it deserves, making every note matter and Spike’s vocal style has evolved to give both tunes an even greater poignancy.
After a phenomenally successful 2012 – with high profile live shows the highlight – what the Quireboys need now is a rip-roaring follow-up to 2008’s Homewreckers & Heartbreakers. Headed for the studio in January, it’s a fair bet they’ll deliver.
And with bands like effervescent support The Burning Crows breathing down their necks the pressure’s on for Spike and company. Looking every bit as good as the headline act, right now it’s a case of adding substance to style where the Norwich act is concerned. Their best songs are brilliant but the rest remain average: an injection of quality fresh material might be all the Crows need to reach the next level.