Metro Theatre, April 27
Let’s get this out of the way quickly and get on to the fun stuff.
No, though a microphone next to Glenn Tilbrook stood unattended for the first half of the show, it would not be used by Chris Difford, the other half of the songwriting duo at the heart/other remaining original member of, the sarf Lon’on band. He doesn’t fly. He wasn’t here.
Yes, it is still ok to call it Squeeze instead of Glenn Tillbrook Live because it is Squeeze songs, not his solo work; Difford has been playing with them in parts of the world he doesn’t have to fly to; Tillbrook sang pretty much all the Squeeze songs, co-wrote all of them, played guitar on them all, and if he wants to call it Squeeze why the hell shouldn’t he?
Right, back to the show.
There’s a joy in a righteously good melody that is hard to shake, even after 40 years. There’s an equal joy in witty and pointed lyrics that still kick in decades on. Especially when done as well as Squeeze did in their pomp, and at many other times in the years since.
And when it’s placed before you again, the years (and weight, and aches, and troubles) fall away to leave that kid you once were. So much so that rather than presumption, the idea of starting a show with a boisterous new song (ostensibly celebrating a long-lasting relationship amid darkest news) which commands everyone to “please be upstanding” to mark longevity, feels like the perfect toast.
After that toast, the utterly dangerous drinking game could well have been sink a glass every time you automatically drop in on a line, hook up on a harmony, mouth a guitar solo or honk along with a keyboard line. Oh boy, would you be smashed by full time.
“Squinting faces at the sky, a Harold Robbins paperback/Surfers drop their boards and dry, and everybody wants a hat.” The key change in Annie Get Your Gun. Nearly doing a cha-cha-cha to Goodbye Girl. “So I had a bath on Sunday.” Taking the high part Elvis Costello did in Black Coffee In Bed (or the bass part he did in Tempted). Doing that little quick verbal shuffle in Hour Glass. The detective hour guitar line in Take Me I’m Yours. “The tougher, tougher tougher it gets, the more my lips frequent, now that is love.” The squelchy organ of Slap & Tickle and the double drum catch at the start of Up The Junction. “I’m invited in for the coffee, and I give the dog a bone/She likes to go to discos but she’s never on her own.”
Tillbrook - who looked a little less ebullient than usual, but hardly morose – still sounds much the same, that youthful tenor far less affected than our waistlines/hairlines. It is the voice we hear in our heads still, yes, even in Tempted once taken by Paul Carrack (whose keyboard parts, and Jools Hollands’, are handled comfortably by the sharp dressing/singing Stephen Large).
As for the “other” voice, if percussionist Steve Smith couldn’t really pull off the deadpan Difford delivery when taking lead on Cool For Cats or adding that flattened harmony, he, aiding the superb Yolanda Charles on bass/vocals, brought a heightened sense of rhythm to many songs. Goodness, Charles even threw in some slap for Cool….
(A brief pause here to note the presence of 50something singing drummer Simon Hanson who sported droop drawers, a low-level mowhawk and made the other half of this night’s double bill, rake thin people’s poet, John Cooper Clarke, look almost suburban. Rock on, son, rock on.)
Newer songs? Pretty good, if somewhat mellowish by comparison, bar the rolling funk of Rough Ride where a Bernard Edwards-like bassline, was matched by some Nile Rogers-ish guitars, and then a taped accompaniment which had choir, operatic voice, trumpet and probably full orchestra, sent it over the top.
The stories in the new songs touched sensitive points for half the room I dare say. Our hearts a bit more shopworn, our resistance to ukulele (in the jaunty Cradle To The Grave) weaker, our anger at the thought “austerity, is that all you’ve got to give to me?”, a mite stronger, and, let’s face it, our enjoyment of a song about a vaping Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac fan who at a record store gets into the stacks where “he flicks and finds a precious gem/it takes him back to Lewisham”, ever more heightened.
It might earn another toast, for celebration or solace. After all, in the bar, the piano man’s found another nail for my heart. Drink!
Squeeze and John Cooper Clarke play The Forum, Melbourne, today (April 28); The Gov, Adelaide, April 30; Astor Theatre, Perth, May 1.