You don’t need me to tell you that it’s been a crazy couple of years for just about everything, and going to concerts might not change the world in the big scheme of things, but then again, not being able to go to concerts has been an absolute nightmare. And sure, we’ve all been able to for some time now, and maybe I was the last one to the party, but for me, this was the night I finally felt comfortable to make that step.
Royal Albert Hall – 20 April 2022
Words: Mark Rotherham
Photography: Robert Sutton
And what a night it was. The Albert Hall isn’t the biggest venue out there, but it’s definitely one of the classiest, and whether they’ve admitted it or not, you can see where the architects who designed the O2 got the idea.
So whoever’s playing to you, as one of the five thousand punters at the Albert Hall, you’re already in for a treat.
The house lights dimmed dead on time at seven-thirty, and a denim-clad Suzi Q was welcomed onstage, backed by an impressive selection of musicians and singers, the left to right view showing keyboard player, two backing singers, drummer, three-man horn section and guitarist. Bass player? Yeah, right, Suzi’s got that covered and don’t we all know it.
The concert starts with Wild One, taking us straight into the no-frills rock ‘n’ roll that Suzi’s famous for. But for those of us who didn’t know her that well and expected that and nothing else, by the end of the night, many would have been surprised by her versatility as a musician.
“The Queen of rock ‘n’ roll is here tonight,” grinned Suzi. And who were we to argue?
As you’d expect from a performer of Suzi’s longevity, what follows is a glorious cross-section of her back catalogue, insanely foot-tappingly addictive and oh so entertaining. The band came together with super-slick professionalism, making it very clear to everyone that any downtime due to lockdowns and all the rest of it was put to good use in rehearsals and practice.
Or maybe they were all just excellent at their jobs. Either way, it worked.
This was no concert by numbers, no quality minus the soul. This was Suzi playing her own music and delivered with passion as well as sheer talent.
Time for a word here about between-song patter as well, because let’s face it, sometimes it’s almost as important as the songs themselves, and it can add, or take away from the experience. Suzi’s engagement with the audience was warm, genuine and, at times, very intimate. As she herself said, playing to the Albert Hall felt like playing in her living room (some living room, and I sure as hell wouldn’t want to hoover it).
“I need a man to play this next song for,” smiles Suzi, and cue fifty per cent of the audience jumping to their feet and screaming out “mememememe!”. Suzi picks out one lucky guy from the front row before announcing the next song, Mama’s Boy. No serenade for that fella, then.
And that’s how the show went, with lots of humour, lots of feel-good, and nothing too serious.
But you don’t get to stay on top of your game and have a successful career for fifty years without one thing, being good. Suzi Quatro’s talent is undeniable, but she’s also ably served and supported by her band, and her family. Suzi’s son, Richard Tuckey, came onstage to play guitar for No Soul/No Control and The Devil In Me. Suzi was fulsome in her praise for Richard’s talent as a guitarist and songwriter before booting him offstage and telling him to clean his room.
Quatro fans will know about her collaboration with Andy Scott from The Sweet and Don Powell from Slade, known as QSP, but who knew they’d both come onstage for the next two songs? Andy Scott’s red and white strat screamed solos, backed up by Don’s Powell’s thunderclap drumming. We were treated to a QSP version of Slow Down and Neil Young’s classic, Rockin’ In The Free World.
Suzi then took time out to give everyone a potted history of her life and career, starting with her date of birth. “You do the maths,” she says. “Seventy-one and proud of it,” then, with a chuckle and gleam in her eye, “And I’m still shaking my ass!”
Well, alright then.
Suzi then put down her bass guitar and sat at the keyboard to play a piano-only song, Can I Be Your Girl, which she dedicated to her parents, their spirits having flown. It was a touching moment that made a ballad utterly personal. And that on its own is a real achievement for a genre that has commercialised ballads beyond belief.
As much as anything else, such an intimate connection with a song added real depth and dimension to both the show and to Suzi as an artist. And sure, that moment wasn’t the whole Suzi Quatro story. It just added another layer.
And that was the end of Act One. Yes, there was more to come. “And when I come back,” says Suzi. “I’ll be wearing something a little more familiar.”
And for those in the know, which was everyone in the Albert Hall that night, there was absolutely no surprise that Ms Q kicked off Act Two clad in her customary and trademark leather catsuit.
At seventy-one? You betcha. And did it work? You betcha.
The second segment of the show kicked off with Motor City Riders, a homage to Detroit, Suzi’s home town. And then it’s more of the same rockin’ rollin’, back and forth trip through Suzi Quatro’s musical career.
Straight after She’s In Love With You, there’s a round-table introduction to the band, and a short but sweet drum solo, backed by some sublime bass guitar playing. Suzi Quatro playing the bass guitar that’s almost the same size as her is no gimmick. She can really, really play. That comes as no shock to anyone there that night, but it’s a real treat to pick out some historic bass lines among Suzi’s playing. I found Pictures From Home, and I’m sure that plenty of others there that night found a few more.
The tempo built and built from this point, and as Glycerine Queen ended, Suzi and the drummer once again sparred before Suzi then joined the drummer, and they both shared the solo. How cool was that? And when have you ever seen that before?
The drumline evolved into the one song that you absolutely just knew was coming along. “Okay,” shouted Suzi. “Let’s take this one home.” She got the whole crowd clapping their hands, and then the whole crowd standing up.
And when I say the whole crowd, I really do mean it. Everyone. Every. Single. One. I’ve been to plenty of concerts over the years, and at almost all of them, there comes the point where the audience is implored to stand up and join in. But how many shows have you been to where every single occupant is on their feet? Sure, plenty of artists can get most, but it’s the likes of the Stones and Queen that can make it exclusively inclusive.
And Suzi Quatro! “If you’re not standing up,” shouts the leather-clad septuagenarian, “then you’re too old!” Nobody was sitting down.
And then Suzi launched into Can The Can. It was always expected but no less electrifying. It’s an absolute rock classic, with its thudding, foot-tapping and addictive beat, and there was only ever one way to follow it. “Welcome to the Dive,” growls Suzi, and we’re into Devil Gate Drive, an absolute masterclass in effortlessly delivered timeless, feel-good rock ‘n’ roll.
And then, which for me took me right back, there followed If You Can’t Give Me Love, which was the first Suzi Quatro song I ever heard, with its profound lyrics that tell us, like we actually needed to be told, that there’s a lot more to Suzi Quatro than her trademark musical style. It’s a song that turns all the normal societal standards on their head and is a testament to how seriously Suzi Quatro has always taken her art.
You could be easily forgiven for thinking that the show would end at that point, and you’d also be perfectly happy as well, having been thoroughly entertained for two hours. But no, this is Suzi Quatro we’re talking about here, and the curveballs keep coming with a cover of Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little Rock and Roller, sung in a rockin’ rollin’ way.
And the show ends with an Eagles cover, Desperado. Suzi takes a lone spot onstage, perched on a high chair and minus her bass as she sings the slow-moving song. It’s an unexpected, atmospheric end to a fantastic journey through one person’s incredible musical history.
We all came away from the Albert Hall having been thoroughly entertained but also with a much greater insight into the life and history of one amazing musician, who, without many of us even realising it, has transformed so much about music.
On a personal level, it was a great way to get back to going to concerts again, and what a memory to go home with.
Suzi Quatro, the queen of rock ‘n’ roll? She’s got my vote.
Suzi Quatro – Act 1
The Wild One
I May Be Too Young
Tear Me Apart
No Soul/No Control
The Devil In Me (with Richard Tuckey)
Slow Down (with Andy Scott and Don Powell)
Rockin’ in the Free World (Neil Young cover) (with Andy Scott and Don Powell)
Can I Be Your Girl? (piano solo)
Suzi Quatro – Act 2
Motor City Riders
I Sold My Soul Today
She’s in Love With You
Bass Solo & Drum Duet (Another One Bites the Dust… more )
Your Mamma Won’t Like Me
Glycerine Queen / Bass Solo
Can the Can
Devil Gate Drive
If You Can’t Give Me Love
Sweet Little Rock & Roller (Chuck Berry cover)
Desperado (Eagles cover)