Classic Rock

Lynyrd Skynyrd / Status Quo / Massive Wagons

London Wembley Arena

- Dave Ling

Two classic-rock heavyweigh­ts – one bowing out, one soldiering on – and one rising star come to conquer the capital.

What with Coverdale’s costly caterwauli­ng, ex-UFO bassist Pete Way attempting to become a ‘singer’ and the allegation­s that Kiss are lip-synching on their farewell tour, the subject of bands tarnishing their legacies is becoming a hot potato. Where does earning an honest living end and pissing on past glories begin? This evening juxtaposed two heavyweigh­ts in the twilights of their days, one bowing out with grace and the other taking the risk of rocking on with no considerat­ion of a sell-by date.

After just four albums Massive Wagons have no huge reputation to speak of – but they’re working on that. This was a moment that the Lancastria­ns had waited their entire lives for. Given that singer Baz Mills has an air of Noddy Holder about him, it’s only fitting that they arrive to the strains of Slade’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Preacher. “Good evening Wembley, you’ve no idea what this means to us,” proclaims Mills during 25 slickly executed, high kicking, mic stand-twirling, hair flailing, Flying V-tastic minutes. And having saved their best ‘til last they’re rewarded warmly by the crowd for Back To The Stack, a determined slice of boogie in honour of the late, great Rick Parfitt.

Although some believe that Status Quo should have ended following Parfitt’s death, Francis Rossi recently told Classic Rock that he regards their continuati­on as a challenge: “What those people have done is make me go: ‘I’ll show you’.” Given tonight’s enthusiast­ic response it’s clear that some time remains on the clock. Midway through a 65-minute display, they throw in two songs from the forthcomin­g album called Backbone. Due in September, their first Rick-free set is surprising­ly decent. “If we’d said they were new you’d have gone for a piss or something,” says the old campaigner. One of these tracks in particular, Cut Me Some Slack, vindicates Rossi’s determined stance. But there’s a down side: nobody in the current line-up can really do justice to the songs originally voiced by Rick. Richie Malone, the Irishman picked as Parfitt’s replacemen­t, does his best with a version of Mystery Song, but doesn’t quite cut it. Elsewhere, bass player John ‘Rhino’ Edwards almost murders Rain, while keyboard player Andrew Bown flounders amid a chaotic stab at Whatever You Want. Should Quo drop those songs or continue to perform them poorly? Over to you, Frame…

Headliners Lynyrd Skynyrd, conversely, are almost beyond criticism. Sixteen years ago on this stage as special guests, they blew Deep Purple right out the door and down Wembley Way. On tonight’s farewell lap, a solitary song (Skynyrd Nation) represents the current millennium, the remainder being plucked from those classic dog-eared LPs of the 1970s. Guitarist Rickey Medlocke remains a quintessen­tially supercool rock star, but this was all about Gary Rossington, Skynyrd’s final remaining link with the past.

At encore time this Saturday night audience becomes almost hysterical with excitement when the band returns to a stage filled with dry ice. Everybody knows what will happen next. And as Skynyrd 2019 prowl through Free Bird the screens remember a long list of band members lost to the reaper. When its second verse arrives Johnny Van Zant simply perches his Stetson on the mic and leaves the remaining words to a video recording made of his late elder sibling Ronnie. This was one of those rock‘n’roll bucket list moments. One can only sympathise for future generation­s of rock

 ??  ?? Rickey Medlocke: Skynyrd’s super-cool six-stringer. Johnny Van Zant: carrying the torch for his late brother. Status Quo’s first Rick-free album is surprising­ly decent.
Rickey Medlocke: Skynyrd’s super-cool six-stringer. Johnny Van Zant: carrying the torch for his late brother. Status Quo’s first Rick-free album is surprising­ly decent.

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