The Met Lounge, Peterborough
Review by Paul Monkhouse
Many bands have turned to acoustic sets in the past but very few as well as the Quireboys, a band with the charisma and material to make it really work for them. When this is perfectly teamed with an opening slot by the brilliant Rebecca Downes it proves to be an evening when all you can do is be swept away by the music.
Having toured regularly up and down the length and breadth of the country with her full band playing support to bands such as Magnum, tonight sees her shorn of her full band but joined by partner in crime guitarist and vocalist Steve Birkett. The duo fill the sound with ease and you can’t help but warm instantly to Downes, her great humour and down to earth personality shine, displaying not a shred of over inflated ego. ‘Take Me Higher’ is an excellent showcase for her soulful vocals and really got the attention of all there. As has been proven many times before, huge talent isn’t always enough but needs to be matched with great quality material to really highlight the artist. The songwriting team of Downes and Birkett have that by the bucketload. Next song ‘It’s Not Easy’ is a prime example of this as it twists and turns in unexpected directions whilst the stripped-down acoustic arrangement really lets the vocals shine.
Refreshingly, Birkett doesn’t just play second fiddle to the singer as the two are evenly matched in musical chops and it comes over as a perfect partnership. There is a genuine warmth exuding from them and when showcased in such great fare as the sparkling ‘Waving Goodbye’ it’s pretty unbeatable. The richness of the voices glides perfectly over a hooky chorus, as the track has a classic, almost pop, soulful tone. It would have been difficult to follow that gem but the Radio 2 playlisted ‘Sailing on a Pool of Tears’ ups the ante even more. A big, spellbinding ballad, it contains elements of chilled flamenco and is both instantly catchy and heartrending.
The pace changes with ‘1000 Years’, an upbeat blues number with a truly cocky strut that easily dispels the narrow view that the blues is solely downbeat tales of suffering. The short set finishes with the title track from last album ‘Believe’, another forceful wake up call that is both defiant and life affirming. Featuring an acoustic breakdown, its sense of dynamics proving it was the perfect number to finish on. Returning later for an incendiary duet with Spike for the Quireboys encore, Downes was the ideal choice as touring companion for these dates and was clearly having a ball on the road with a band she’s long been an admirer of. With her expressive Midlands accent she doesn’t sound like one of the Windsors in conversation but, make no mistake, when she sings Rebecca Downes is UK Blues royalty. If you want to know the roots of hard rock and metal, get yourself into the blues. You really can’t go wrong with the lethal combination that this partnership offers of filthy barroom rock ‘n’ roll and soul. Catch them when you can.
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