Sheffield City Hall, 18 October 2019
Hot on the heels of a highly successful US tour, the quintessentially English New-Wave icons Squeeze hit the road for their 2019 UK.
Joining them for the tour are Sheffield’s Heaven 17 who opened the evening in style. “It’s great to be here in our home city,” smiled frontman Glenn Gregory, beating his electric drum as Martyn Ware pumped out the intro to Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry. “This was written just 10 minutes away from here!” he added, indicating over his shoulder. More H17 favourites followed with (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thing, “One of the first songs Martyn and I wrote together,” said Gregory, and Play To Win along with one of their biggest hits Come Live With Me.
To slow the pace for a moment, Ware stepped out from behind his keyboard to join Gregory for “Heaven 17’s version of Human League’s version of You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” called Gregory. Bernice Scott’s keys provided the musical backdrop to a delightfully moody duet which brought the house to it’s feet.
Let Me Go was a clear fans’ favourite and Penthouse And Pavement had everyone dancing in the aisles before it was time to leave. Girl singers Kelly Barnes and Rachel Mosleh, who were superb throughout, came to the fore for the finale, Temptation, and Barnes’s interaction with Gregory was stunning, a magnificent conclusion to a great homecoming.
How do you top that? Has to be Squeeze with The Difford And Tilbrook Songbook! And what a songbook! Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook have created a host of 3-minute superbly-crafted pop classics looking at every aspect of life from adolescent love to living on a council estate to alcoholism.
Given that they Squeezed 25 numbers into an hour and three-quarters, there was little time to catch breath or chat between songs so the songs came thick and fast, save for Tilbrook’s introduction after the opening salvo of Footprints, Big Beng, Hourglass, Pulling Mussels (From The Shell) and Up The Junction. “Chris and I made a list songs for the tour,” he said, “and we thought we’d like to include some songs we haven’t played for a while. This is a bit of an anachronism, about a council estate, King George Street.”
Ahead of the tour Glenn Tilbrook said that he believes the current 7-piece Squeeze line-up sounds better than ever and latest recruit Melvin Duffy’s pedal steel guitar added the finishing touches to King George Street and Labelled With Love.
Whilst the set covered the whole of Squeeze’s 45-year career, there was a strong emphasis on that early golden period of 1979 to 1981 and the classic albums Cool For Cats, Argybargy and East Side Story which provided half of the set’s numbers. Principal lead vocalist Tilbrook tirelessly delivered each song with the appropriative sense of drama or humour, with Chris providing vocal harmonies. Together they shared the lead vocals on Someone Else’s Heart.
The rest of the band, Stephen Large (keyboards, vocals), Yolanda Charles (bass, vocals), Simon Hanson (drums and backdrop videos), Steve Smith (percussion, vocals) and Duffy, left the stage, midway, for a breather while Difford, trading electric guitar for acoustic, and Tilbrook shared the spotlight, and the vocals, for In Quintessence and Slap And Tickle.
Squeeze have many endearing qualities including the light and shade between the vocals of Tilbrook and Difford. And while Tilbrook takes the lion’s share of vocal leads, one should not overlook just what a great guitarist he is, too. His solo in Slap and Tickle was just one of many during the evening.
Bringing the Songbook up to date were the title track to 2015’s Cradle To the Grave, for which Tilbrook picked up a ukulele, and Please Be Upstanding from their most recent The Knowledge album. Then it was back to the early hits as the set drew to a close with Difford’s notable vocal lead on Cool For Cats, followed by Another Nail In My Heart, Goodbye Girl and Annie Get Your Gun.
“Thank you, you’re amazing,” Tilbrook said as Squeeze left the stage but no-one was leaving without an encore. Squeeze returned to a huge cheer to sing If I Didn’t Love You before Tilbrook acknowledged Difford saying “Without him we wouldn’t be here tonight, I’m so happy we met.” After all these years, the enduring friendship between these two chums is so evident and Tilbrook was right, the band was outstanding all evening and Squeeze do sound better than ever.
The encore continued with their very first hit Take Me I’m Yours before they answered the audience’s calls for Black Coffee In Bed.