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Joli Blon support to Spike’s Quireboys
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People have waited a long time to see at least some of the original Quireboys unite

London: 02 Academy Islington – 15 December 2022

A much anticipated night. People have waited a long time to see at least some of the original Quireboys unite, and it was a great night for me from start to finish, just because that happened.

Openers Joli Blon were an all-girl Cajun band, singing in a French dialect. Really, I can’t say a lot, other than, they were enthusiastic and smiley, and it was a Folk, rather than a Rock ‘n’ Roll act. I don’t suppose the audience were experts in French Cajun Folk either. Those up for a party were receptive to such a novelty. The expectation for the original Quireboys predominated.

Spike knows how to make an entrance, and, heralded by Scottish pipers, walked through into and across the pit, right along the photographers (sadly too close to frame a proper shot of the procession) and onto the stage for an intro of ‘Amazing Grace’ with Jimi the Piper.

But it’s not long before it was straight into the Rock ‘n’ Roll, including a slew of energetic favourites from ‘A Bit Of What You Fancy’ with favourites such as ‘There She Goes Again’ and ‘Hey You’. The distinctive whisky-laden voice is still there. Spike sounds and looks as good as ever, He never stops pointing, swinging the mike, engaging with the crowd. He moves the way he used to thirty years ago, the consummate eye-catching front man. Nigel Mogg on bass and Chris Johnstone haven’t missed a beat since they were last on stage with Spike and that element of the show was exactly as I remember. It was heart-warming to see Spike with his arms around Moggy, his old partner in crime, back in place. Spike didn’t get to hug him for long, though, He’s busy kicking as high as his head and gunning for the crowd with his bass. He’s still fit as a whippet. It was nice to hear Johnstone’s own particular brand of Rock ‘n’ Roll piano which is, in the final analysis, unmistakeable. Rudy Richman played it like Charlie Watts, the non-flashy, unflappable, reliable presence at the back.

Guy Bailey, original guitarist, was there, first appearing in the pit to get a kiss on the hand from Spike. It’s not long before he is invited up on stage, but he is not playing tonight and, as I suppose befits a Christmas party, he has clearly had a whisky or seven, and even has a bit of trouble climbing the steps to get on stage. Spike is supportive, gives him a big hug, and goes out of his way to stress Bailey’s importance in writing the songs of their favourite albums and the new material for an album due out next year. Despite a promise that “he’ll be back” we did not see Bailey again on stage, after no doubt a few more trips to the bar. He did hang out afterwards, though (for the many who wanted to go up and shake the band’s hands, say hello and take pictures) and sat grinning throughout.

Guitars were taken care of by Chris Heilmann who plays with Spike at his solo acoustic gigs, Alan MP who plays with Mogg in his solo band Juvenile Wrecks and Chris McCormack of 3 Colours Red. Unfortunately, maybe it was where I was in the VIP guest area upstairs, but I couldn’t really hear the guitar solos, so whenever there was one, I could only really hear the drums and bass, so I need to reserve judgment in this regard. Also, sadly, female guest singer Angie Bruyere had lost her voice as she had been practising so hard for the gig, a bit of bad luck. She did her best, trying to concentrate on Spike rather than the audience for strength and courage, and he did everything he could to encourage her, calling her a wonderful vocalist and attending to her needful glances. Sadly tonight, however, her vocal cords did not play ball. What I did hear sounded like a female version of Spike, but apparently she doesn’t normally (!) Under the circumstances I might have been tempted to cut this part of the show (I guess the band were too nice to disappoint her) but it wasn’t long before we got back to the main agenda, and nothing spoils the fun. Spike keeps the mood light with jokes “if it wasn’t for Bush Telfer of the Marquee I wouldn’t be here. He ruined my life”, and “someone keeps changing my age, not sure what is going on here”. Between songs he affectionately ragged his fellow band members, making sure they get the attention too on stage. He also began inviting members of the audience onto the stage to sample the bar. Indeed, things were a whole lot less messy than they could have been at a Christmas party with the Quireboys, and other than some over-enthusiastic members of the audience having to be kicked off stage for dancing too often behind Spike, and Bailey refusing to leave the bar, there are very little ill effects of all the booze.

Things started to really reach fever pitch with full-tilt versions of ‘Long Time Coming’, ‘Take Me Home Tonight’ and ‘7 O’Clock’, and Spike really let loose again with the mike twirling. Johnstone hit the keys full pelt and that Rock ‘n’ Roll freight train that was the original Quireboys, was, once again, alive and well. Spike hollers “The F’n Quireboys are back!” … and the crowd roared. Spike lost himself in the moment so much he actually sang the words “dirty device”. He hasn’t done that for decades! The crowd tore the roof off with their singing for ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’, sounding as though they had suddenly all been given microphones.

There were not one, but three encores: my favourite ‘Mayfair’, the new single ‘Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year’ complete with Jimi the Piper onstage, and finally, after a bit of humour where Spike sang the Cadbury Flake song, ‘Sex Party’ for that extra special happy ending!

Not everything went perfectly tonight, but the original Quireboys were all smiles on stage. The audience were thrilled to be there for this historic occasion and forgave any technical hitches, certainly no one mentioned anything like that to me afterwards, they were too busy trying to get selfies with the band. Watching Spike doing his little side to side jigs of happiness on stage, it was not difficult to think everything happens for a reason.

Dawn Osborne

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