x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Solid as rock 'n' roll: Francis Rossi and Status Quo

Ahead of Status Quo's performance at the Gulf Bike Festival, the guitarist Francis Rossi talks about his band's longevity.

The British are coming. Status Quo, one of the UK's longest-standing rock bands, will be in Dubai this weekend to headline the Gulf Bike Festival. Having formed in 1962, the band has more experience than most when it comes to concerts - certainly more than their Bike Festival co-rockers, the Canadians Nickelback. As the lead guitarist, Francis Rossi, explains, Status Quo have already passed their 6,000th show.

Status Quo's Dubai appearance is part of a tour they're completing after a recently released compilation. Fans who have followed them for decades will hear songs spanning the band's 40-plus years, among them the hits Rockin' All Over the World, Down Down and Whatever You Want. "If you know us, you know what to expect," Rossi says, adding that fans are very much a part of the show. "They build into something that's been happening for many years. For this show we're going to play some stuff from the 1960s, and that always causes a stir."

The musician goes on to admit that after playing shows for so long, he often feels doubtful whether he will still experience the same high that comes from a great concert. "Sometimes I think it can't get to that point again. I just never think it will happen again." But it does. At 60 years old, Rossi may not be a spring chicken, but he and his band mates continue to receive praise for their reliably and tremendously energetic performances. Rossi think he knows where it comes from.

"People like me are insecure. But we're also show-offs," he admits. "Just by walking on we're saying: 'Look at me.'" Also in their favour are Status Quo's immensely loyal fans. This Rossi attributes to a largely steady sound. If people want a certain type of song, the band may as well give it to them. "People want what they know they like. I'm a better player than I used to be, but the music hasn't really evolved that much," he says. "If you look at AC/DC, for example, their last album sounds almost identical to their first."

Perhaps the music hasn't changed much, but the industry certainly has. And Rossi isn't convinced it has been for the better. In the 1960s, he says, if a band wanted a certain noise on a song, they had to make that sound themselves. "If you wanted saxophone, you had to hire someone who could play the saxophone," he remembers. "When Pandora's box has been opened, the options become more limited. There used to be a lot of soul and sound in albums. With digital, in some ways everything about it has been improved, but it's also become more sterile."

Another thing that has changed is the band members themselves. Late last year, Rossi was quoted as saying that when the band members were teenagers, they were rebels. Now, they've become firmly part of the establishment. Rossi and his band mate Rick Parfitt were both appointed OBEs in the UK's New Year Honours List 2010. "I mean, really, we are the establishment. And it's a logical progression. When we're young we're desperate not to be like our parents. We're rebellious, we're wild. Look, now we're old, we're conservative."

Perhaps, but it's all relative. Rossi also has his fair share of stories about parties in decades past. But he doesn't look back. In April he will release his second solo album, and though he doesn't have a detailed list of the events of the next few years, Rossi isn't about to disappear into the ether. Status Quo weren't named England's hardest-working band for the past two years for no reason.

"Actually," Rossi says with a laugh, "I don't know what that means. It's a stat. It's odd to have stats, but it seems like bands need them." Status Quo play the Gulf Bike Festival in Dubai on Saturday. www.gulfbikeexpo.com.