The Quireboys (Acoustic) @ The Railway, Bolton
The Quireboys always seem to be up to something these days and if it isn't touring with a full band then it is touring with their cut down acoustic shows. This one, announced shortly after their last tour, sold out rapidly and for good reason. Most bands who do an acoustic tour primarily do it as a one-off stopgap, but The Quireboys are making more of it. So the bad lads are back to strumming their acoustics once more.
The main room at the Railway Music Venue is small. It is perfectly intimate for this type of show, and the venue was rammed with 200 people, which meant there was only standing room at the bar for late arrivals. There was no support act this evening which meant quite a long wait for The Quireboys to come on stage, which they did about 10pm. But it was well worth the wait, the band launching into wonderful acoustic versions of their best-known songs along with some requests. The stage itself was set up in an intimate manner with stools for the band and a table for their drinks, all rather cosy.
Songs such as Roses and Rings and Take Me Home Tonight early on set the pace for the evening, with the band taking on a bluesier, more passionate feel than their electric counterparts. The comedy was in full swing too, as one would expect, with Spike telling us the band had bought him a drink holder for is mic stand in which to hold his “coffee and apple juice”, a euphemism for lager!
Spike also claimed the band had not played for ages, as they launched into Mona Lisa Smiled, with him singing in a voice highly reminiscent of Rod Stewart. The acoustic versions of the songs worked really well and it helped having an audience that was hugely supportive and didn't need much encouragement to join in.
Guitarist Griff had told Spike not to say anything between songs but he decided to ignore him. Beautiful Curse came across well but Whippin’ Boy seriously whipped up the enthusiasm of the crowd. The sound of the band is still full on even though they are minus the drummer and bass player, having just two acoustic guitars and a piano really allows the strength of the songs to shine through.
I Don't Love You Any More turned the audience into a choir, sung in a lower key, the piano really cutting through. Spikes voice was both pained and passioned - a treatment the song richly deserved and quite possibly the highlight of the evening.
In contrast the band then invited us once more to a “Sex Party” and we were back to some serious rock 'n' roll. Needless to say there was more audience participation creating a party atmosphere – but no sex! This neatly led into a drinking song, the melancholy Have A Drink On Me.
Spike claimed to have bought Griff a new guitar, a beautiful white Gretsch acoustic, which was put to full use on Sweet Mary Ann. Before Watching All The Pretty Girls Go By they stated they hadn't done the song for some time and was dedicated, unsurprisingly, to all the girls in Bolton. Towards the end of the set Spikes harmonica collection started getting a workout on songs like Don’t Bite The Hand That Feeds You, a slow basic blues number.
The last song in the main set started off with Spike asking the audience "what's the time?" This could only mean it was time for 7 O'Clock, a real rock 'n' roll classic from the band, with barroom style piano, fantastic audience participation during the chorus and we heard more of Spikes harmonica skills. Just a single song for the encore, I Love This Dirty Town, which just about finished everyone off, even though they were all begging for more afterwards.
An exceptional gig from one of Britain’s best loved rock 'n' roll bands around, at one of the best rock 'n' roll bars in the UK. If you haven't managed to catch them live yet then you really need to, to understand what you're missing.
Words: Anthony Firmin