WIN: Status Quo tickets and albums

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THEY’VE rocked all over the world. Now Status Quo are fine tuning their guitars to head back to the North East. Katy Wheeler speaks to co-founder of one of the UK’s greatest rock bands, Francis Rossi.

Get down, deeper and down with Status Quo as they promise to rock the North East with an electrifying set.

More than fifty years after launching their sound, the Quo are still going strong.

The tour sees founder members Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt take to the stage with Andy Bown, John ‘Rhino’ Edwards and new boy Leon Cave to perform a high octane set of hits, new and old.

They’ll be rocking the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle next month.

“It’s always been a good place to play. But we never look forward to one gig more than another,” said Francis about returning to the North East. “To say you liked one over the other would mean last week’s wasn’t as good as last night’s.

“I remember last time we were there we played Sage. I never thought an audience would be intimidated by a venue. The crowds are quite vociferous up there usually, but they were quite quiet, must be because it’s a posh venue. It’s lovely though, maybe an acoustic tour would work better there.”

Francis has fonder memories of the band playing on Wearside, to open the Stadium of Light back in 1997.

“I never get the football thing to be honest, but you’ve got to hand it to the crowds, they’re passionate,” he said. “I remember driving around for ages in a car before we went on, you feel like a wally, then we got on the pitch and it was great.”

However, it is, of course, their opening set at Live Aid in 1985 which has become the band’s most famous live performance.

“At the time we really didn’t know it would take off like that,” recalls Francis. “You see things on telly about Africa when you’re growing up, but Bob (Geldof) was like a force. We didn’t want to do it at first, then we walked on stage that day and realised how important it was.

“The difference was you and the audience were together. It won’t be like that tonight, you go on stage and the audience have paid and expect something for it. That day you were all part of one thing and it was a euphoric thing.”

So after five decades in the business, sales of `118million, 33 albums and an endless back catalogue of tracks - including Whatever You Want, Down Down, Rockin’ All Over the World and Pictures of Matchstick Men - how do they pick a set list for a tour?

“There are certain things in our back catalogue that don’t work and others that we’ve been doing for the past 400/500 years,” said Francis. “But we jig things about and put other things in. For some reason when you get to Britain on the tour, I don’t know whether it’s because it’s your home country, but you feel a certain pressure.”

Few bands can come close to matching the longevity and success of Status Quo. Over the years they’ve recorded 64 British singles - more than any other band - 22 of which have hit the Top Ten. The first hit was Pictures of MatchStick Men which reached Number 7 in January 1968.

More recently, they’ve just released their Aquostic album, in which they perform fans’ favourites acoustically. Though they plan to tour with that album, this current tour is an electric set.

Francis says it’s difficult to put a finger on the magic formula for success.

“I don’t honestly know. maybe it’s because the music is simple and people can relate to it, maybe it’s because lots of guys can have a go at playing it. Or maybe it’s the whole male posturing thing, legs spread and pouting,” he explained.

“I see myself on telly and you think ‘what a d***head, I won’t do that again, then you end up doing it again.

“There is a feelgood factor, but it’s also intense. There’s almost an anger in the room, it’s jolly and poppy but you have this “errrrrrr” at the bottom with the guitars and people love that grinding.

“I also think we’re lucky. Some people play the lottery every week, I did it once when I was 12 (referring to learning to play guitar) and this happened, if you know what I mean.”

As a schoolboy in South London, guitar provided a gateway to another world for Francis.

“There’s a lot of insecure little boys, I learnt to do that Jack the Lad thing at secondary school,” he said. “I saw the Everly Brothers and I wanted to strum and play, then when I got older I learnt how to use my voice too.

“There’s also the thing of impressing girls, you think if you’re famous everyone will like you. Then when it happens you realise that doesn’t happen. There will be so many millions of people around the world who like us and some who think ‘who are they?’, but that’s ok.”

That initial passion for music is still there, he explains.

“At this time of day (mid-afternoon), you think ‘why am I doing this’. You go to sound check in this cold room, then you get on stage at night and you realise just why you do it. It’s addictive, more than any drug. But it’s never satisfying. We just did the acoustic thing and it’s done great, but you still think ‘what now’.” says Francis.

The promotional images for their latest album have been causing quite a stir with Francis and Rick posing naked with just guitars to cover their modesty.

“60-year-olds all wrinkly taking our pants off, we’ve performed in shorts before but what people are talking about is what’s covered by the guitar,” says Francis. “It’s done it’s job, it’s great marketing.”

•Status Quo Live In Concert with special guests Chas & Dave is at Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle, on December 8. Tickets are priced at £39.50 from Tel. 0844 493 6666.

We’ve teamed up with Status Quo to give away two pairs of tickets to see them live at Metro Radio Arena on December 8, as well as a pair of Aquostic (Stripped Bare) albums.

To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question: which of these is a Status Quo track?

A) Whatever You Want

B) Whatever You Will

C) Whatever You Wish

Email your answer and contact details to Katy.Wheeler@jpress.co.uk.

Closing date: December 4.