Music review: Status Quo: The Frantic Four Ride Again, Manchester Apollo

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This brand of Ronseal rock can't compete with the Rolling Stones - but the four blokes in denim still prove compelling

We are all too grown up now to make anything of the fact that the music loving demographic has become a little snowy around the temples – especially in the blues, where performer and audience have got old together quite happily. BB King is currently touring aged 87, whilst the Rolling Stones 50th anniversary shows last year earned rave reviews.

Status Quo’s brand of Ronseal rock is not in the same league as those giants. And while it is tempting to suggest the musical tastes of the Quo’s legion of die-hard fans ossified in the sixth form common room sometime towards the fag end of the Jim Callaghan government, four blokes from south London, three chords, twelve bars, denim and a pair of white trainers still provide a compelling formula for a night out.

This was a special occasion for those that had packed into the Apollo - the first time in 30 years that the original line up was back together and much of the short tour sold out within an hour.

The so-called Frantic Four still centres on Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi – who have continued to tour the franchise remorselessly in the face of the loss of their flowing hair and Parfitt’s quadruple heart bypass.

But drummer John Coghlan split the band in 1981 to seek pastures new whereas founding bassist Alan Lancaster was ousted after performing at Live Aid in 1985 – prompting a damaging legal tussle which this series of concerts will hopefully put to bed in the fans’ minds.

Lancaster, who has been suffering health problems himself, appeared sprightly enough as the band chugged their way through the opener Juniors Wailin’. After that the much-loved tracks came thick and fast – Is There a Better Way, Little Lady/Most of the Time,  Forty Five Hundred Times before Parfitt shaped up, legs akimbo, for Down Down followed by a stonking Roadhouse Blues and an encore culminating in Bye Bye Johnny.

There were times when the band was less than tight. Rossi warned us that they had decided to “put the fuck ups back in” during rehearsals – “coz that’s how it was”. And judging by their at times stilted body language it was unclear whether they were particularly enjoying themselves. But no one in the audience seemed to care, however, greying heads banging nostalgically and wrinkly wrists thrusting out devil signs.

Quo remain a true British institution. To the uninitiated their shows may be the dad (and mum) dance from hell but if you don’t like what they do, you have no reason to be there.

Status Quo are touring to 17 March.

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