@ Newcastle Carling Academy, December 22 2008

This time next year Newcastle’s very own Quireboys will be back on Tyneside and in 12 months’ time they’ll be headlining the main Academy venue. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing remains to be seen but after successive sell-outs upstairs it’s the only place to go.

Of course the switch will mean a bigger profile, bigger production and bigger bucks. But if last night’s cracking atmosphere in a room crammed to the rafters is lost then those of us who appreciate the finer things in life might just feel a little let down.

And as for the support bands – they’d surely prefer the status quo. A Quireboys’ crowd is traditionally early and so Remedy and, in particular, Fables Last Stand benefited from a sizeable audience right from the start. Which is great, because both local bands rock in their own very different way and it’s worth watching out for the pair of ’em in 2009.

Remedy vocalist Jen could have fronted Four Non Blondes in another life, such is the deep growling rasp generated by her wide vocal range. With six-track EP Strange Fast Now available early next year these are exciting times for the powerful four piece and if there were rough edges to a quickfire set it didn’t spoil the feisty vibe.

Fables Last Stand will always find more favour with a Quireboys’ crowd such is the retro-soaked sound of their 70s-style blues-fused glam. These boys look good and sound great. Classic hooks and singalong choruses make for a heady mix of the music we love and if that debut album is still some way off it will be well worth the wait.

Of course few live acts can live with the Quireboys right now. With their best album in 20 years still making an impact on rock crowds the world over and that honky tonk live show sweeter than ever these are heady days for Spike and co. On nights like this you just can’t help wondering why this band of brilliant musos and endearing characters aren’t so much bigger than they are. According to record company bosses and promoters that could all change in 2009.

With so many anthemic standards to choose from it’s difficult to dip into the new stuff but if there was one critcism of an otherwise blinding show it was a disappointing paucity of material from the outstanding Homewreckers and Heartbreakers. There are enough top notch tunes on that record to fill most bands’ live sets but we were only treated to a brief taster in the Toon.

Then again what we got instead was gold dust. A magic version of Misled reminded everyone why there was such a buzz about the Quireboys in the early 1990s but tracks from the band’s 21st century back catalogue are more than a match for their early forays into rock and roll.

Roses & Rings still knocks spots off the opposition and a family-themed version of Sweet Mary Ann might have moved Spike’s sister to tears had she not been sporting a grin wider than the Tyne.

What is obvious about the Quireboys in 2008 is the tightness of a unit which plays with each other and for each other. Guy Griffin and Paul Guerin are developing into a very special twin axe attack while bass player Jimi Jimmi grows in confidence with every new tour. Newly installed drummer Phil Martini could be the long-term tub thumper this band has always lacked while it’s impossible to imagine a more dextrous ivory tinkler than Keith ‘Keys’ Weir.

By the time the final strains of Sex Party rang out across the Academy the audience had been reminded at least six times that their heroes have penned the official Blyth Spartans FA Cup song. If it’s as good as this gig then expect some serious chart action come the first week of January.