It’s 6pm on a Friday night and the greatest rock n roll band in the world are about to storm the stage at The New Victoria Theatre in Woking to throw the biggest party in town. But first Showaddywaddy are going to have a cup of tea.
They’re running a bit late, owing to traffic holdups on the M25, but still the band’s drummer Romeo Challenger, bassist Rod Deas – the only two remaining members of the original group – and energetic lead singer Andy Pelos are happy to sit for a chat.
Showaddywaddy, the evolved incarnation of the seventies supergroup, have earned the title of the hardest-working rock n roll band in the world for the last two years – but then, having spent almost half a century gigging, one could argue it’s a richly deserved title.
Today they have travelled from Leicester, the band’s literal and spiritual home, and each date on this mammoth tour will see them do the same. Having been on the road for 47 years, one would think that the older pair, at least, would be feeling a little jaded by now. So do they ever get tired of life on the road?
“Not at all,” says Romeo. “It’s never hard, it’s a profession I really enjoy. If I didn’t love doing it, I wouldn’t do it.”
And anyway, he says, building and retaining a loyal following by being on the road is crucial: “You can’t just make an album and sit back. And I didn’t go into this business just to sell merchandise: I want to be a performer.”
In the old days the band would travel with two huge lorries plus sound equipment and a commensurately large crew to assemble it at each stop. Nowadays all the sound is done on an ipad.
The sound check takes half an hour: “We’re getting quite good at it,” laughs Andy. “It’s great to work with a crew you know and trust.”
Showaddywaddy started out as the winners of the 1973 talent show New Faces and finished runners up in the grand final – and from then on the music – and the live shows – have just kept coming.
Think Showaddywaddy and you think Under The Moon Of Love, Three Steps To Heaven, I Wonder Why. The audience – many of whom have been following the band for their entire career – want to hear those, of course.
“They all sing along,” smiles Andy. “Most of them know the words better than we do. They soon let us know if we get a word wrong!”
And it’s a cross-generational thing now, he adds. “We have people bringing ther children and their grandchildren,” he says. “I don’t know what the grandcildren think.They probably think we’re the Teletubbies...”
And Romeo adds: “Anybody coming to see our show is expecting certain songs to be played a certain way, and we always try to recreate that. Obviously we have got different people doing it now, but the songs remain the same.”
But the band, whose back catalogue consists of a great deal of covers, certainly don’t sit on their hands when it comes to producing new material: last summer’s studio album Next Chapter included tracks written by band members Rob Hewins, Dean Loach and Paul Dixon. Three of the album tracks make an appearance in tonight’s show, with Rob’s amazing bass doo-wopping kicking off a lively rendition of Get a Job.
The newest member of the band is Ray Hatfield.
“For me it started back in February,” he says. “I knew a couple of the guys anyway so I knew I would get on with them. I had phoned Rod up about an hour before and said ‘do you fancy a coffee?’. When I got round to his house he was on the phone to his manager, and when he came off the phone he said ‘Do you fancy a job? I said yes!”
And some fans go to extreme lengths to meet their favourtite band: “The Scottish fans are crazy, great fun,” says Andy. “We found some hiding in a broom cupboard at a gig we did in Glasgow. They must have been there for five or six hours. Crazy.”
And the band members are very conscious that it is the unswerving loyalty of their fans that keeps them at the top of the rock n roll party game.
The make a point of meeting fans after the gigs, signing autographs, posing for pictures – although nowadays there’s not a huge amount of the hysteria that used to greet them when they came off stage after a gig in the seventies. Indeed the Woking audience is made up of a fair number of Ladies of a Certain Age, busily reliving their younger years as the band reels off hit after hit.
It’s a high-energy show, with Andy leading the pack in terms of brash showmanship, and the band belting out the rocking tunes that had them dancing in the aisles in a scene that is doubtless repeated in venues across the country when Showaddywaddy rock up.
Those turning up in the hope of reeling through the Showaddywaddy back catalogue are not disappointed: A Litte Bit of Soap, When, Dancin’ Party and You Got What It Takes are all thrown into the mix, and the crowd, predictably, goes wild for the big ticket hits. It’s a real party tonight, and you just know that those scenes are going to be repeated as the band moves on to Cirencester and then Swindon, Crawley, Bognor, Hayling Island, York, Leeds, Sunderland... with dates booked as far ahead as 2019. This is a band that truly loves the job. And their fans love them right back.
Visit www.atgtickets.com to see details of forthcoming events at the New Victoria Theatre.