We'll Do It Live

Squeeze

08.01.10 | San Francisco, CA

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Good songs, competently played and lovingly rendered.

It’s not an overly complex formula yet such basic sturdiness is beyond the grasp of many bands. However, get these three things right and you’ve got yourself a foundation you can build almost endlessly upon. I witnessed the proof of this when Squeeze hit the Fillmore to showcase the bright moments from close to 40 years of craftsmanship, cheek and undeniable charm.

Glenn Tilbrook & Chris Difford of Squeeze

Glenn Tilbrook & Chris Difford of Squeeze

The English Beat proved an ideal opener, showing off their own 30+ years worth of chart denting savvy. Yes, it’s been decades since the hits rolled in but you’d never have known it from the reaction of the adoring 40-something audience stuffing the legendary SF venue. Rarely have I been so knee-deep in my own demographic, but instead of recoiling against it I found my own nostalgia glands salivating right along with them as Dave Wakeling inquired, “Remember the eighties?” as they slid into a confident reading of Save It For Later. Like the headliner, the Beat are a superb singles band and understand the inner workings of music designed to get a lot of people off in around three-minutes. So, the final run of Tears of a Clown (one of the finest Motown covers ever) into Tenderness and finally Mirror In The Bathroom was about as fine a triple play as any band has in their arsenal, and set the room up nicely for Chris Difford, Glenn Tilbrook and the latest incarnation of Squeeze.

When VH1’s Bands Reunited failed to get Squeeze back together in 2004 it seemed unlikely we’d be hearing Take Me I’m Yours, Black Coffee In Bed and the other hits (and should have been hits) again. Thankfully, the bond between Tilbrook and Difford was strong enough to rekindle things and the band has been active again since 2007. In San Francisco, it seemed like they’d finally allowed themselves to revel in their catalog in a delightfully shameless way, with the projections on the strips of white cloth behind them showing a dandy hodgepodge of vintage photos, old reviews and album covers during the performance. And their recently released Spot The Difference collection offers new recordings of their best known tracks with subtle differences, which also suggests a happy reassessment of their catalogue from within their ranks. If your band writes this many amazing singles then you’d want to play them all at almost every show, too. I’m on record for decades as a radio DJ and music writer giving this pair their due for being one of rock’s most under-sung composing teams, so it was refreshing to see them hailed as the bright lights they are from the moment they stepped foot on the Fillmore stage.

Tilbrook has one of the greatest pop-rock voices ever, on par with Paul McCartney, Paul Carrack and Robert Palmer, and he really let the ol’ pipes ring out at this gig, showing little to no signs of aging. His excitement for the material – which ranged from well-trod like Tempted and Up The Junction to deep cuts like Hope Fell Down (off 1984’s Difford & Tilbrook) and Someone Else’s Heart (off East Side Story) – invigorated every piece, with Tilbrook bouncing around and playing guitar with shaking Duane Eddy jangle. And Difford was no slouch, harmonizing and taking lead on a few, but just as much a part of this enterprise as his more forthright partner. In fact, the whole damn band played bloody well – just consummate professionals down to the bone. They have abundant raw material to work with, and the results were an exciting see-saw between sighing recognition and the happy surprise of material not on a greatest hits package.

There’s a great love affair with rock in Squeeze, exemplified by If I Didn’t Love You’s line about “singles remind me of kisses/ albums remind me of plans.” There was no mistaking these songs had significance beyond ear candy for the gathered crowd. Many had fallen in (and out) of love to this music, and often at a time when every relationship leaves a tattoo on one’s soul. When we are young we tend to give and take with a hungry excess that inflates every detail, and Squeeze for a lot of folks, this writer included, provided some of the balm and fuel to those heady days. To find them still kicking and creating anew is heartening to say the least.