Arts: Pop: Closing time, gentlemen, please

THE VERY idea of a Status Quo pub tour seems appropriate. After all, the East End boys made good have done little more than purvey the most straightforward boogie for more than 30 years now.

The idea of playing a series of dates for long-serving fan club members in such venues as this - a shrine to heavy rock where the likes of Iron Maiden started out on their road to world domination - makes a lot of sense. Basic music in basic surroundings - it has to be better than vile barns such as the NEC and the Wembley Arena, venues that positively discourage drinking and dancing, and generally getting any, er, rocks off.

The Nineties have hardly been kind to the Quo. Hits have tailed off, and their attempt to sue Radio 1 in 1995 after a pretty limp remake of "Fun Fun Fun" with the Beach Boys was left off the play list (a bemused Brian Wilson was seen on The Des O'Connor Show, skulking at the back and looking as if he'd rather be in rehab than on stage), came across to many as a publicity stunt that backfired. But although their appeal may have become more, uh, selective over the years, they're still as much a part of British culture as jellied eels and the Queen Mum, two other things that many people could happily do without.

Their influence, however, is undeniable, if unconscious. How many aspiring musicians must have watched them on Top of the Pops, thought "I could do that" and improved on the template? At the height of the Britpop Wars, the Quoasis T-shirt sold by the Mancunian pretenders was a knowing nod to detractors.

The "home of heavy metal" must be smaller than the rooms Quo rehearse in. But the crowd - clearly unaware of denim's unfashionability - lapped them up in their natural surroundings. For at a distance of 30ft or less, these 50-somethings still rock, or boogie at least.

Francis Rossi (as ever sporting a ponytail and grandad shirt) looked more comfortable than his long-time cohort Rick Parfitt (tanned, wearing a gold guitar pendant, and looking less than awed by his surroundings). "Again and Again", "Sweet Caroline", a medley including "Mystery Song" and "Wild Side of Life" that defies critical analysis were all neat, noisy and intact.

Yet the years roll on. An unexceptional "Rocking All Over The World", which must have funded a few lawsuits for its author, the legendary American curmudgeon John Fogerty, seems perfunctory. As they rushed through a verse each of Fifties rock'n'roll classics as an encore, you felt time closing in on them. Ashes to ashes, pubs to pubs.

A version of this review appeared in later editions of yesterday's paper