Status Quo get ready to please the crowds as Let's Rock the North East returns to Sunderland
It's more than 50 years since Status Quo first played in Sunderland, and they're back next month when they headline the one-day retro festival Let's Rock the North East, on Saturday, June 8.
Last year, 15,000 music fans gathered at Herrington Country Park to enjoy acts like Tony Hadley, Kim Wilde, Midge Ure, Heaven 17 and Go West.
This year's line-up includes Marc Almond, Shalamar, From The Jam, Jason Donovan and T'Pau – but it's headliners Quo who will undoubtedly prove the biggest crowd pullers.
Frontman Francis Rossi, the only original member, turns 70 at the end of this month, but is still going strong.
Quo have had a remarkable 60 Top 40 hits – more than any other rock band in history, and Rossi is clear for the reason behind their continued appeal.
"We never tried to be fashionable - we couldn’t ever become unfashionable, I guess.
"But the Quo crowd, they know what they like and we make sure they get it.
"Many of our fans have grown up with us – and without their loyalty over the years we certainly wouldn’t have stuck around.
"We do see lots of the same faces and they are always most welcome.
"It’s always great to see new generations coming through – and our shows are always full of all ages, which we love."
In 2016, when guitarist Rick Parfitt was ill, Quo retired from doing electric tours.
He sadly died in December that year, and after a suitably respectful gap, the new line-up – Rossi, guitarist Richie Malone, John 'Rhino' Edwards on bass, Andy Bown on keyboards, and Leon Cave on drums – got back on the horse.
"We eased off initially, partly due to Rick not being well," says Rossi, "but the fans have made it clear that they love the electric set, so on we go."
The singer was famous for his drinking and drug taking during the band's '70s and '80s heyday, but it's been many years since he's indulged.
"I look after everything a lot more. I exercise and I eat well. The Quo show is a pretty serious workout in itself."
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So what's on the rider these days? "We don’t have any silly demands. Rock ‘n’ roll excess just means bad behaviour to be honest, and those days are gone.
"Lots of water, fresh fruits. Some of the band like a glass of wine afterwards, but I tend to steer clear these days."
But while Rossi can keep doing what he loves by looking after himself, one thing he can't control is the weather.
Let's Rock the North East is an outdoor show, but that holds no fears for such a road-hardened band – whatever the weather.
"Well, rain tends to be a factor, but there’s not much we can do about it. We have had plenty of sets outside where we’ve started when it’s been raining, but it’s often seemed to clear up as we go. Let’s just hope for sunshine though!"
Anyone who has seen Quo over the years will know the size of the venue makes little difference to the way they play either.
This is a band, remember, who started out in little clubs, and peaked when they opened Live Aid at Wembley Stadium in 1985 in front of 72,000 people.
"In many ways one show is much like another, "says Rossi. "The preparations are the same and we just get on with things.
"We’ve certainly played multiple times in Sunderland – and they’re a friendly bunch! But Quo shows are about the crowd not the venue.
Playing a big crowd is always fun, especially when people get right into it. "
Isn't it strange playing without Parfitt, who was his bandmate for an astonishing 49 years?
"Well it’s different, of course. But that’s what life does, it changes.
"The band is tighter than ever at the moment and we are loving playing together, which I’m sure is going to come across.
Any setlist surprises? "Nothing is set in stone yet, but we know what people will have come along wanting to hear and they won’t go home disappointed!"
* Status Quo headline Let's Rock the North East at Herrington Country Park, Sunderland, on Saturday, June 8. Tickets are available from www.letsrockthenortheast.com