Only Spike, the charismatic, beer-loving frontman of the Quireboys, could dedicate his band’s High Voltage set to the memory of wayward Alex Higgins.
Two kindred spirits and two consummate entertainers, the pair have thrilled millions of fans over the years. One may have wielded a snooker cue, and the other a mic stand, but what Higgins was to sport Spike is to music. Still.
It’s likely a good number of those gathered before the main stage on Sunday hadn’t seen the Quireboys since their chart-busting glory days but this is a band in their best ever form. It’s no surprise that Joe Elliott bagged the band to beef up his Down N Outz project because we’re talking a group of classy musos at the top of their game – proof of which can be heard on the Homewreckers & Heartbreakers record and it’s Halfpenny Dancer acoustic follow-up.
Mona Lisa Smiled, from the former, is as good as, if not better, than anything on A Bit Of What You Fancy and if it still lacks the familiarity of the old favourites then that didn’t seem to stop some delightfully impromptu dancing. Sporting a new pinstripe suit with waistcoat and trademark rose, Spike was in his element. Watched in the wings by Jimmy Page, Elliott, various members of UFO and former Thunder man Luke Morley the genial Geordie was determined to put on a special show. And he succeeded.
The extended version of I Don’t Love You Anymore may well have been the best version of that memorable ballad the band has ever delivered. And it came on the back of a dawn flight from Switzerland, a quick hop across London and very little sleep for the best part of two days. You wouldn’t have guessed on the evidence of this singalong show.
Paul Guerin, his bag lost in transit, might have played without his contact lenses but the Blyth-born guitarist never lost focus of the job in hand. Trading licks with Guy Griffin and then with Guy Bailey – the Quireboys’ founding member making a rare and welcome cameo appearance on raucous set closer Seven O Clock – Guerin continues to forge a reputation as one of the rising stars of UK rock.
After watching this there’s a case for the Quireboys opening up every main stage at every major festival in the world. The party band with a new-found professional edge, Spike and his pals know how to get a party started – and generally do.