The Quireboys @Blyth The Phoenix Theatre, May 26 2022

I Don’t Love You Anymore.

It seems the feeling’s mutual as The Quireboys and Spike get used to life apart.

Like all break-ups, the pain’s more intense in the early days.

Stuff is said in the heat of the moment.

Feelings are running high.

And only those closest to the key players will ever know the true story.

But as an ugly split — fuelled by disputed claim and counter-claim — continues to play out across social media, the bands play on.

And 24 hours after Spike successfully hooked up with long-time buddy Tyla at Edinburgh’s Bannermans, it was time for his former colleagues to take up the baton and take centre stage.

All Systems A Go Go

Following weeks of unseemly squabbling there’s an overriding sense of relief that the music’s finally doing the talking.

Both sides are getting back down to business.

Doing what they do best and doing it despite the surprising ferocity of a raging online debate.

A week after setting the seal on their US tour at the Sunset Strip’s Whisky A Go Go, The Quireboys arrived in Blyth via Guildford with it all to do.

And for hometown hero Paul Guerin a gig two years in the making proved to be a truly emotional — and ultimately triumphant — affair.

This famous Phoenix night was always going to have a special place in the long-serving six stringer’s heart.

And any concerns that Spike’s very public departure would put a dampener on the occasion were quickly quashed as a near capacity crowd did their favourite son proud.

Spikeless…But Far From Spineless

Sure, it initially felt strange watching a band called The Quireboys without a wise-cracking, bandana-wearing frontman strutting his stuff.

And there’s simply no substitute for Rushonock fave Spike’s endearing one-of-a-kind charisma.

But within the first few lines of I Love This Dirty Town (no offence intended, good folk of Blyth) it became clear that this is a band reborn, reinvigorated and reliably raucous.

And it didn’t take long for an under-pressure quintet to emerge from the shadow of their larger-than-life ex-colleague.

By the time Guy Griffin delivered a tear-jerking take on Roses And Rings it was evident that The Quireboys can approach the future with confidence.

For core members Guerin and Keith Weir it really is a case of ‘as you were’.

And two mainstays of the last two decades delivered when it mattered at a time when their band has never been under greater scrutiny.

Prize Guy Comes Out Fighting

Griffin, by contrast, faces a very different challenge as he juggles guitar duties with lead vocals.

Stepping way, way beyond his comfort zone, the longest serving member of The Quireboys’ latest incarnation could have crumbled.

Instead, Griffin steadied himself and visibly grew in stature: his bullish takes on the gloriously groove-laden Gracie B and brooding Original Black Eyed Son almost brought the house down.

And after he missed the band’s previous show in the North East — an equally enjoyable night at the Sage Gateshead — it felt so good to see a familiar face back in the fold.

Following that November show Rushonrock reported: “A Quireboys show without Guy Griffin is like watching the Stones without Keith Richards, Aerosmith minus Joe Perry or AC/DC shorn of Angus.

Six months down the line and there was, of course, an unerring sense of déjà vu.

You see, a Quireboys show without Spike is like watching the Stones without Mick Jagger, Aerosmith minus Steven Tyler or AC/DC shorn of Brian Johnson.

But it’s still a show well worth watching.

Phoenix From The Flames

It’s different. But different is good.

And given the ambitious career-spanning set and bold decision to dust off some much-loved — but rarely heard — classics this felt like an exciting new beginning for a band that many would argue was stuck in a rut.

For a five-piece widely accused of burning their bridges, this was, in fact, a ‘Phoenix from the flames’ moment.

A steely statement of intent and a terrifically entertaining glimpse of the future.

Who knows what that future holds?

But whisper it Quiretly…this might just work.