Quireboys @Gateshead The Sage, November 19 2021

Let’s address the elephant in the room.

A Quireboys show without Guy Griffin is like watching the Stones without Keith Richards, Aerosmith minus Joe Perry or AC/DC shorn of Angus.

An integral part of the band since 1989, he’s been there, done that and worn the immaculately tailored shirt.

Consequently, this 30th anniversary celebration of A Bit Of What You Fancy simply wasn’t the riotous shindig it could — and should — have been.

Of course, the Quireboys still hosted a rock and roll party like no other.

No surprise there.

And as post-lockdown Friday nights go this was still a fun-filled trip down memory lane.

But let’s be honest.

The sooner Bedford’s finest returns to the fold the better…for all concerned.

Luke who’s here

Griff had missed the previous night’s gig in Leeds and for the second night running Paul Guerin had a new six-string partner in crime.

So who’s the new guy? Or the new Guy?

Luke Smithson’s the name and consistency’s his game.

On a night when there was a palpable sense of apprehension in the air, Griff’s stand-in settled nerves and steadied the ship.

And just eight days after the local heroes had pulled a show in Blyth, 15 miles up the road, getting back to business as usual was the bottom line.

Unsurprisingly, given the absence of their buddy and band mate, Guerin and keysman Keith Weir took longer than usual to settle into their familiar stride.

But rhythm section Pip and Nick Mailing — reprising their roles as the band’s unbreakable backbone — guaranteed much-needed stability.

And frontman Spike, the charismatic captain of the Quireboys crew, took no time at all to get into the groove and stir the emotions of a hometown Gateshead crowd.

‘Head boy Spike delivers lesson in rock and roll

Hailing from just up the road, the bandana-topped frontman revelled in his latest return to the banks of the Tyne.

And with his beloved Newcastle United on the brink of challenging world football’s big boys, the devoted Mag couldn’t resist a cheeky dig at local rivals Sunderland…or long-suffering tour manager and QPR fan Alan Clayton.

But this entertaining evening was all about showcasing the brilliant ABOWYF — the Quireboys’ chart-busting debut album that’s all killer and no filler.

Live favourites Hey You, Seven O’Clock and I Don’t Love You Anymore ticked all the retro boxes.

And There She Goes Again never fails to up the ante and fuel the adrenaline.

With sister Julia in the crowd, Spike couldn’t resist a heartfelt rendition of Sweet ‘Julia’ Ann…the family reunion continuing long into the night.

But the best was saved until last as Spike and Guerin linked arms to rock an a cappella version of Geordie anthem Blaydon Races.

This wasn’t quite the Quireboys. But it was the next best thing.

Troy’s the boy

Earlier, special guest Troy Redfern’s intoxicating brand of muscular blues earned the instant respect of a demanding and partisan crowd.

The accomplished slide player is riding high on the back of latest long player The Fire Cosmic.

And Redfern’s splendid rendition of the dreamy Sanctify more than justified the hype.

Covering Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile proved he can mix it with the best…but in hindsight was it the best tune to whip the Quireboys’ crowd into a pre-show frenzy? Maybe not.

Redfern has enough tricks up his sleeve to avoid predictable covers and, in the case of this unique talent, the originals are, without doubt, the best.

Main images by Adam Kennedy