The fans are bouncing, the beer is flying and Status Quo star Francis Rossi is doing what he has done for more than 50 years - rocking out.
Bounding across the stage like a man half his age, he – and the crowd – seem to have just one thought in their minds: I like it, I like it, I li-li-li like it.
But despite his buoyant performance, the rocker says he is super-conscious of every one of his 73 years.
“It’s a shame I’m so f***ing old,” he tells the Mirror in his dressing room before Monday’s sold-out gig in the Dutch city of Tilburg.
“The band are playing really well, and all enjoying each other’s company. I wonder how far the band can grow, but then I remember... I’m 73.”
Francis is in a reflective mood but any melancholy is soon cancelled out by his self-deprecating humour.
“I’m very much aware of age because when I was growing up we would always laugh at someone in music who was 40. Now I’m in my 70s, my face is falling off and when I stand under a lamp, my hair disappears.”
Looking lean and with more hair than me (which he is quick to point out with a cackle), Francis is doing himself a disservice.
He goes to great lengths to keep mother nature at bay.
“I swim every day, I work out every day, although I can’t now because I’ve bust my bicep overdoing the chin-ups,” he says.
He adds that a pre-diabetic diagnosis spurred him on. Now he swears by a brisk 10-minute walk after every meal, as well as a 1.30pm nap.
“My digestion is better, the cholesterol has dropped. Just from walking 10 minutes,” he says.
“If the production manager wants to talk to me he has to walk alongside me, I’m not stopping. It’s an obsession.”
Another obsession is the Times crossword to keep him mentally agile.
“It’s always the concise one. You learn about language and derivatives of words and such. It’s really interesting,” he says.
For a man whose nasal septum fell out because of a raging cocaine habit, his love of puzzles, as well as smoothies and vitamin injections is something of a change of pace.
After the death of bandmate Rick Parfitt in 2016, and Quo’s original bassist Alan Lancaster last year, it’s no wonder Francis thinks about his own mortality.
He says: “Death? Yeah. I’ve had pneumonia three times, and the last one was 2017. F***, have you ever been ill and you lie there at night sometimes and think you could die in your sleep now?
“That was it. I’m hoping there is a time that you just go, it’s time to check out. And if it comes to a time of someone having to wipe my derriere, I’m going.”
Born in 1949 in South East London, his family ran the Rossi’s Ice Cream business. Francis had to choose between driving the van and sticking with music.
He formed the Scorpions with pal Alan in 1962 while they were at school.
After some name changes and the arrival of drummer John Coghlan, they were joined in 1967 by guitarist and singer Rick and called themselves The Status Quo.
After a big hit in 1968 with Francis’ psychedelic song Pictures of Matchstick Men, they haven’t looked back and have gone on to sell about 118 million records, as well as playing over 6,000 live shows to 25 million people.
But such extraordinary success came at a price. In his autobiography, Francis admits to spending £25,000 a month in today’s money on cocaine, which led to the breakdown of his first marriage.
Rick died from sepsis aged 68 after a life of unbridled excess. Francis, who has eight children and lives in Surrey with second wife Eileen after beating his addictions, describes how Rick was the “best ever friend when I was a kid” but the two men drifted apart in later years.
But even now, Francis still feels Rick’s presence.
“I dreamed of him last night. I was supposed to be doing a vocal for a soundtrack on a movie. He said, ‘I think you should let me sing this’, well, that was Rick all over, ‘Let me, let me, let me’.”
Lead singer Francis, who begins a UK tour with the band tomorrow, was adamant Quo would not fold after Rick’s death. “The naysayers said ‘they can’t do it without Rick... blah, blah, blah’,” he says. “And they may be right for all I know. But it just makes you dig in.”
Unlike today’s pop stars who are often scared of their own shadow, Francis is not only captivating company but refreshingly honest. Sometimes, a bit too honest.
At least three times during our chat, he stops mid-sentence to ask me not to print something or he’ll “get in trouble”, often with fellow musicians.
But, boy, does he deliver when he gets going. Take the row over singers such as Robbie Williams playing in Qatar during the World Cup despite the country’s human rights record.
Francis says: “It’s their laws, whether I agree with them is another matter. Whether [Qatar was awarded the rights to host the World Cup] in a bent way or not, we’re now going to say the rest of the world isn’t bent? Including our own country and our own government?
“Robbie went and did that because they put a lot of zeroes in front of him. It’s very, very hard to not do it.”
He remembers a similar backlash in the 1980s over Quo performing at Sun City in South Africa during the Apartheid era. “They were all being f***ing hypocritical. We went there just after Queen and Tina Turner. We were ostracised.”
And don’t get Francis started on the industry today, not least the pittance earned from streaming services, and the impact of Brexit. “If they were shagging us in the 60s, they’re definitely shagging us now,” he says.
“Brexit means there’s certain things we can’t get budget-wise for the tours, for the buses, for the crews, for the trucks. We’re getting shagged over everywhere. But I still want to do it.”
After the show, I join Quo members bassist John “Rhino” Edwards, drummer Leon Cave and guitarist Richie Malone in the pub just yards from the venue.
They are instantly mobbed by fans, old and young, who ask for selfies and bombard them with free drinks.
Quo have a strict midnight curfew and at 11.50pm, their time is up and they dutifully head back to the tour bus – where they rejoin Francis – for an overnight dash to another European city.
Down the years, the bus has been known to leave stragglers behind. If you’re keen on Rockin’ All Over the World with Francis your timekeeping has to be impeccable off stage as well as on stage.
- The band’s album, Quo’ing In – the Best of the Noughties, is out now. They tour the UK from tomorrow until December 3 including dates in London, Leeds and Glasgow