Francis Rossi is urging East Anglian music fans to make a big noise.
The veteran rocker, who plays Ipswich and Southend with Status Quo in November, is keen to see the eastern counties come out of the dark ages by doing things the French way.
“East Anglia needs one decent arena,” said Rossi, who has enjoyed 41 years in the rock business and 39 alongside Rick Parfitt as the face of Quo.
“I’ve got a real problem with East Anglia. I hate the venues. France used to be Third World for touring but even that’s ahead of the East of England. France is a great place to tour, the road system and arenas are fantastic and have left England so far behind it’s unbelievable.
“We were talking about it in the band the other day. The East of England really is a disgrace. Get yourself a big arena and you’d get all the big groups from America over.
“You lot in East Anglia should take a leaf out of the French books and start blockading ports. We might moan about them but they know how to get things done.”
Rossi has plenty of experience to draw on, having played venues as diverse as Thetford Forest, Blickling and Holkham Halls, Norwich City FC and the UEA, Portman Road and the Regent in Ipswich, Cambridge Corn Exchange and Southend Cliffs Pavilion – you can see what Rossi is getting at.
“I love playing the big arenas: Birmingham, Brighton, Portsmouth, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Plymouth, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool – they’re all over the place, apart from in East Anglia.”
Rossi insisted his reasons for enjoying playing the big dates is not selfish or the band being big-time Charlies.
“We put on the same set no matter what the venue. But at somewhere like Ipswich it’s one-two-three, turn, to stop falling off the stage.
“You can get a great atmosphere in the small places but you have to work so hard as a band. It takes so much out of you and the heat brings fatigue and the shows suffer, even more so at our age,” said Rossi, who is 58. Parfitt is 59 and Andrew Bown, who has been part of the Quo since 1973, 62, with ‘youngsters’ John Edwards and Matthew Letley chalking up another century between them.
“At 16 when I first got into the business, I never even thought about still doing it at this sort of age,” said Rossi, who as the pony-tailed frontman has rocked in front of about 25 million people at more than 6,000 live gigs (including 40 Wembley dates) since forming the Spectres in the mid-1960s.
“Then, 25 was old-man territory. When I got to that, life ended at 30 and I thought no way would anyone still be going in a group after that but nowadays it’s different and there are quite a few of us old rockers about.”
So what is it that keeps them going. Drugs and alcohol played their part in the past but Rossi now admits to getting just as big a buzz from taking the kids to the cinema and having a cup of tea.
“We’re just a bunch of guys travelling around the world who are extremely lucky.
The money is okay, obviously, but at the root of it is just the fact we’re all insecure and need to be constantly proving ourselves. We all just want to get up on stage and say ‘look at me’, we need constant reassurances.”
If musicians were that confident in their own abilities, they’d stay at home and be boring.
“It’s just a job to me at the end of the day.
“I’ve never really lived a lifestyle any different to the average man or woman in the street. Come Friday all they want to do is get dressed up, go out, pull and get some drugs – whether it’s alcohol or tobacco.
“The only difference in rock is that some people try to do that every day of the week and that’s why so many of them are now dead.”
Long live rock ‘n’ roll!
“I just want to get to the gig and start setting up. Rick will tell me to do my own thing and meet up at 7pm for the gig but I’ll be there hours before that. I just want to get on with it.”
Speaking as the latest Quo tour rolled on through France into Germany, having visited passport control in Austria, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Holland and Finland since June, ahead of their 32-date UK tour Rossi said: “I used to get a real buzz out of playing the small venues.
“But that was all part of getting up to the big arenas,” added Rossi, who has since clocked up four million miles on the road, the equivalent of 23 years away from his South London home.
No final curtain just yet for Quo
Even after 40-odd years in the rock business, things can still go wrong for Status Quo.
But despite problems with a curtain that refused to drop completely for the opening bars of Caroline, the Quo rocked on regardless at Ipswich’s Regent Theatre.
Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt and the boys rattled through almost 30 of their hits in a near-two hour set as their nationwide In Search Of The Fourth Chord tour got under way in East Anglia.
The longevity of the band’s career was reflected in the audience with the average age creeping up past 40 with a sprinkling of sprightly pensioners rocking like good ‘uns.
A similar number of youngsters, kitted out in de rigueur denims and T-shirts were similarly playing their air guitars in time to a mixture of the band’s hits, standards and a couple from the new album.
Whether it was the classic Rockin’ All Over The Word, the less well-known Gerdundula (including impressive multi-play guitars from Messrs Rossi/ Edwards and Parfitt/Bown) or the latest single, Beginning Of The End, the crowd lapped it up.
The band’s good nature and easy communication with the hordes who crowded round the stage brought a party atmosphere to the venue.
The majority of the crowd were on their feet from the start and remained standing until the dying notes of Bye Bye Johnny brought the concert to a close amid raucous cheers and applause.
This feature and review appeared in the Diss Express