Only the Quireboys could release a brand new album and fail to showcase its obvious delights within the complementary live set. Recorded earlier this year and originally imagined as a purely acoustic follow-up to the critically acclaimed Halfpenny Dancer, St Cecilia & The Gypsy Soul is a seriously affecting piece of work. Sadly its myriad highlights were saved for another day.
Perhaps the safety-first decision to focus solely on a bulging back catalogue reflected the fact that even the most ardent Quireboys’ fans are yet to familiarise themselves with the new material (Monday marks the record’s official release). And the last thing a stripped down acoustic set needs is that ‘quiet’ moment when nobody knows the words and there’s a mass exodus towards the bar.
Comfortable with the songs he knows best, the endearingly charismatic Spike ensured a capacity crowd was wrapt from start to finish. Making light of monitor issues, the amiable Geordie cajoled the masses with trademark banter, that raspy vocal and the pre-gig promise that a typically feelgood show would be dedicated to the late Andy Fraser.
It’s a credit to Spike that just a week after learning Fraser had passed away – throwing the future of eagerly anticipated side project Spike’s Free House into doubt – the frontman was in a position to put 100% into his day job. Still in shock at the sudden death of the former Free bass player, the singer managed to hide his grief well.
Celebration is surely the best therapy and the Quireboys can always bring the party. More poignant moments – including a spine-tingling version of Monte Cassino (Lady Lane) and Beautiful Curse – left a lasting impression but Hello, Seven O’Clock and the rarely heard Mayfair brought Bannermans’ stifling basement club to life.
With fans in their faces, nowhere to hide and just two guitars and a keyboard for company, the Quireboys’ talent for crafting the perfect rock and roll show came to the fore. Even the ‘noncore’ – with no backstage area Spike encouraged the masses to imagine he’d walked off stage and returned for one final stand – was a triumph as this up-close and personal event reached its convivial conclusion.
When it was revealed the band would be back with a full electric set later this year the reaction was mixed. Hardly surprising, really. Nothing beats a Quireboys’ acoustic set and this is a show that must go on.