THE QUIREBOYS @ROBIN 2, BILSTON, 28/1/2017

Spike and the boys do it unplugged 

To describe the enduring appeal of The Quireboys is like trying to explain why you can watch that bit in Only Fools And Horses where Del Boy falls through the bar and still find it funny – they are self-evidently just brilliant. The actual answer to that question is the same reason as why both have never dated like so much else has: they were never in fashion to start with.

Their sound might be rooted in the past, but Spike, Griff and the boys keep driving forward. 2016’s “Twisted Love” album was the record of the year on this site, and last years (long overdue) collection of blues standards, “White Trash Blues” reached number one all over the place.

All of which is a long way around towards explaining the sheer heart-warming joy of seeing the band shamble onstage and hearing Spike – their one constant in 30 years – say “good morning, Bilston.”

A proud Geordie, the singer has called this part of the Black Country home for over a decade, but he had a rough night last night (you imagine most of Spike’s nights are rough, to be honest) and there is a palpable sense of warmth about the show tonight.

More than most rock bands the songs of The Quireboys lend themselves to the “unplugged” format. Many of them were probably written on acoustics in various states of drunkenness and, as they are preaching to the converted here – much of the crowd will have seen the band multiple times – the vibe is perfect.

“There She Goes Again” was surely penned 30 years ago with nights like this in mind, “Misled” likewise, and they transport me– and many others no doubt – back to a time where they were our boys. We didn’t know The Faces back as 14-year olds, but by crikey we knew that The Quireboys’ “Roses And Rings” was awesome – it still is.

Here is a four piece, joining Spike and birthday boy Guy Griffin are long standing members Paul Guerin and keyboard player Keith Weir, both as essential to the present-day band as the two mainstays.

This format allows them to crack on with a few songs they don’t usually play alongside the classics. “Devil Of A Man” is beautiful here and “Hello” holds its own against the wonderful “Mona Lisa Smiled.”

A couple of the blues songs – “I’m A King Bee” and the first song Spike and Griff ever played together, “Walkin’ The Dog” – show the undoubted class that album has and how much of a labour of love it was for them, and there is a cracked, lovelorn air to “Late Night Saturday Call”.

These acoustic shows (the band regularly do them) don’t normally have “Hey You” in. This one does and it rules, similarly the main set might end with “7 O’Clock” but its “I Don’t Love You Anymore” which steals the show. The passion of the display reminds me of arguing with my dad back in 1990 that Spike didn’t sound like Rod Stewart. 30 years later, I know he does, but more to the point, so does Spike and he’s just fine with it.

“Sweet Mary Ann” ends things here, but the night is just beginning: “We’ll see you at the bar,” offers the frontman. It’s probably his round too. The Quireboys are an institution at this stage and long may they reign.