Gig review: SQUEEZE – New Theatre, Oxford, 25 October 2019

A packed out New Theatre were eagerly awaiting Squeeze, however before the main event we had Heaven 17, a band who had plenty of chart success in the early-mid 80’s. Still featuring two thirds of the original line-up in vocalist Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware (synths, vocals), they played a lively hit filled set. Glenn Gregory was great at getting the crowd joining in on ‘Crushed By the Wheels of Industry’ and ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang’.

Martyn Ware, resplendent in a shiny suit and looking more like an insurance salesman than 80’s pop star, came from behind his synth to duet with Gregory on ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’. As Gregory explained this was the Heaven 17 tribute to the Human League version of the Righteous Brothers classic. It worked well, with both Ware and Gregory seeming to be enjoying the moment, as were the audience.

Personally ‘Penthouse and Pavement’ was a bit too dance orientated, however set closer ‘Temptation’ is a show stopping tune if ever there was one, with Gregory again lively as a Duracell bunny and vying to be heard at times over the two enthusiastic female backing singers.

Very impressive set by Heaven 17 who I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing again performing live.

Squeeze are at the start of a large UK tour billed as ‘The Difford and Tilbrook Songbook Tour 2019’, with the band introduced on a big screen behind the stage. Each band member is handing out an ice cream from a Rossi ice cream van (possibly a nod towards Status Quo’s Francis Rossi whose dad ran an ice cream business).

Starting off with ‘Footprints’, the band hardly pause for breath throughout much of the evening as they cram in as many of the classic Difford and Tilbrook songs as they can. The setlist was chosen by Difford and Tilbrook and included one song from their collaboration outside of Squeeze, ‘Love’s Crashing Waves’.

It shows the strength and depth of their collective songbook that they can play crowd pleasers ‘Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)’ and ‘Up the Junction’ so early on in the set. The sound was a tad bass heavy at times and did drown out the singing and the pedal steel guitar playing of Melvin Duffy at times.

Mid set we get a few rarely played songs like ‘King George Street’, plus the title track from 2015’s album ‘Cradle to the Grave’. Good to see their last album, the rather good ‘The Knowledge’, represented by ‘Please Be Upstanding’, a song about erectile dysfunction, which despite its delicate subject matter for some, features another blissful pop chorus.

The final third of the set sees the band go into full classics mode with ‘Slap and Tickle’, ‘Labelled With Love’, ‘Tempted’ (stripped back somewhat to start with featuring just Difford and Tilbrook on the stage), ‘Cool for Cats’ (cue lots of dad dancing which was impeded by the seating in many cases), ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ and ‘Goodbye Girl’. Not many bands have such a fine canon of songs and all of them featuring memorable choruses and hooks. A rollicking ‘Another Nail in My Heart’ closed the set off as the band left the stage to rapturous applause.

For an encore we had ‘Take Me I’m Yours’ and an extended ‘Black Coffee in Bed’ which allowed Glenn Tilbrook to introduce the band and allow each band member a little solo spot. One definite plus for the band is drummer Simon Hanson who keeps a steady beat and seems to be having a great time behind his kit. Also mention to percussionist Steve Smith who played with a manic flair throughput the set and like Hanson, seemed to be having a good a time as the audience undoubtedly were.

Squeeze define what classic British pop rock is all about and live Difford and Tilbrook still give it their all playing their classic songbook. Legends gets overused a lot in the music world, however that applies to Difford and Tilbrook/Squeeze. Get along to one of the remaining dates of the tour for a fine night of live musical entertainment.

Review by Jason Ritchie


Sat 26 Brighton Centre

Sun 27 Southend Cliffs Pavilion

Tue 29 London Royal Albert Hall

Wed 30 Bath Forum


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