Sunday, 16 December 2012

Squeeze - Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham - 5 December 2012

Formed in `70s, Squeeze were regarded in their day as purveyors of articulate, well-crafted rock/pop. While other members penned original material for the band (Keith Wilkinson and Jools Holland spring to mind), the ensemble was essentially a vehicle for the songwriting partnership of Chris Difford and Glen Tillbrook.

The pair`s battles with drink, drugs and each other are well-documented elsewhere. Given that something like 40 other musicians were members of the band at one time or another, you may feel that the talented twosome were probably not the easiest people to get along with. In fairness though, a number of the musicians concerned were hired hands who never viewed themselves as fully-fledged members.

How does the reformed Squeeze measure up to expectations ? Firstly I`ll own up and say I never saw any of the earlier incarnations live, though I have seen various ex-members (Holland/Lavis/Difford/Tillbrook) on numerous occasions.

The band opened with an earlier song, Bang Bang. A weak number to my mind and one probably best consigned to history. While they did suffer at times from a poor sound, in the early part of the set I was not at all sure about their choice of songs or entirely convinced by their playing.

All that changed with a triumphant performance of No Place Like Home, a particular favourite of Glenn Tilbrook`s and one on which he gave probably the most powerful live vocal performance I`ve heard from him. This was followed by a song called Still (a new one ?) which was equally strong. 

From that point on the band seemed to have hit their stride. Even when they performed songs I myself wasn`t too keen on (some of the earlier songs and one or two of the new ones), it was still a pretty impressive live performance. 

The show was saved from too much nostalgia by interesting, largely acoustic, new arrangements of some tunes which by chance included two particular favourites of mine, Take Me I`m Yours and Slaughtered, Gutted and Heartbroken.

John Bentley plays  bass guitar and occasional ukelele. This is his third period as a member of the band and clearly he is more than capable of fulifilling his role. On drums is Simon Hansen who I think I`ve seen drumming for Tilbrook in the past.  For me though, one of the stars of the show was Stephen Large on keyboard, accordian and melodica. To me, Large was the man who did the most to give the band something new to say musically.  Chris Difford was relatively low key, strumming rhythm guitar and singing only two or three songs.

In a smaller venues Tilbrook`s infectious enthusiasm for playing live and his easy rapport with an audience tends to make him a pretty unbeatable live act. In a larger venue this is inevitably diluted, but still he is a natural communicator and an accomplished guitarist.

The inclusion of new songs probably implies that the reformed Squeeze is ongoing and that solo careers have been put on hold. One hopes that the dynamic duo have put their problems in the past and clearly there`s still a devoted following out there for them. I doubt they will make many new converts at this stage of the game but who can tell ?

The future, they say, is unwritten.

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