Squeeze belong squarely in a distinguished tradition of bands, from the Kinks to Madness, who have added a distinctively english dimension to popular music, particularly with their acute, socially observant lyrics.
While their hit making days may be long gone, their profile has risen again this year with their first new material in over a decade, an hour long BBC4 documentary which is an industry badge of honour these days, and an extensive UK tour which oddly included three dates at different mid-sized London venues.
There was a well matched support in former Housemartins and Beautiful South singer Paul Heaton and his band, mixing more recent material with stuff from his back catalogue like Old Red Eyes is Back and a closing Housemartins duo of the jangly Me and the Farmer and the acapella Caravan of Love.
These did bring back bad memories of my late eighties student days when John Peel worshipping indie fans with pallid complexions and black polo necks looked down on denim clad rockers like me, so it was perhaps a relief that the infuriatingly catchy Song for Whoever was not played.
Squeeze’s cheeky humour was in evidence in the way the dapper South East Londoners were introduced by a cartoon animation of Bruce Forsyth! After opening with the spiky Bang Bang and a couple of their many classic singles in Annie Get Your Gun and Slap and Tickle, with some extravagant organ playing from Stephen Large , new material was prominent early on.
The video backdrops were put to full use as they helpfully tapped out the lyrics to the wistful nostalgia of Top of the Form and a girl string quartet provided the backing to Tommy. The soulful From The Cradle To The Grave was probably the best of the new material.
Oddly it took an acoustic section to really warm up the crowd including Labelled With Love where this most English of bands successfully took on an Americanised country feel, although I was surprised Take Me I’m Yours was also given this treatment complete with an accordion solo.
Both Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook got to sing songs from their solo repertoire, but it is the latter’s soulful melodic voice that makes Squeeze songs instantly recognisable and was showcased on songs from all eras such as Some Fantastic Place.
Gradually the gig picked up intensity as the singles from their golden period of the late seventies and early eighties began to predominate; Black Coffee In Bed and Tempted had people singing along; Up the Junction, with a cartoon animation of the band accompanying one of the most eloquent ‘story songs’ ever written, was delivered exactly as it was in the day; and Pulling Mussels From A Shell saw them rock as hard as they had all set.
The encores began with Chris’ trademark deadpan singing of Cool For Cats, backed by a video clip and with Stephen wheedling across stage rather camply playing the solo on a portable keyboard, followed by Another Nail From My Heart and Goodbye Girl, with the band again playing acoustic instruments at the front of the stage before wandering through the crowd as they finished the song, straight to the ‘pop up shop’ merchandising desk to directly sell CD’s of the gig and their new EP. A typically quirky touch from a band who are one of Britain’s great enduring talents. It would be a shame if they again allowed themselves to slip out of the limelight.
Review by Andy Nathan
Photos by Noel Buckley
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