Review of his gig in Whelan's, Dublin, September 2002
Interesting band, Squeeze. Mostly associated with "Cool for Cats", "Up the
Junction" and keyboardist Jools Holland yet with almost twenty five years of
output driven by the songwriting axis of Glen Tilbrook and lyricist Chris
Difford. A measure of the esteem with which they are held by fellow musicians
can be gleaned from the collaborators on Tilbrook's first solo album released
last year - Ron Sexsmith and Aimee Mann to name but a few. Squeeze had minor
hits throughout their career so I am fully expecting to recognise many of the
tunes tonight despite not being overly familiar with their work. Yet given that
much of their success was in the eighties, I do wonder how Tilbrook can
translate their synth-laden sound into a solo acoustic show.
Incredibly, there is a queue around the corner from Whelan's at eight o'clock prompting the decision to forego the usual adjournment to a local hostelry prior to the gig. This proves to be a wise choice as Tilbrook takes to the stage early and we catch support act Dawn Kenny whose turn with only a piano for accompaniment goes down extremely well. I am sure she suffers tedious comparisons to Tori Amos but definitely one to watch in the future.
Tilbrook opens with some more recent and consequently less known Squeeze songs and a smattering of his own thrown in for good measure before getting to the meat of the show, a comprehensive trawl through the Squeeze back catalogue. Unlike many an artist, he positively revels in banging out exactly what the crowd want. He actively canvasses for requests and even orchestrates clapping and singing as he is recording the show for a possible live album. There is a serious party atmosphere amongst one of the most eclectic crowds I have ever seen - anything from twenty something to fifty something. Tilbrook's energy and cockney banter is infective, not even the tables that have been (inexplicably) left in front of the stage dampen the atmosphere.
But the real revelation of the evening is the quality of Tilbrook's performance. So many acoustic gigs consist of a singer bashing out a few chords and letting the listener's familiarity with the song fill in the gaps. Not here! Tilbrook maps even the most complicated keyboard solos from his songs to the guitar and works up and down the frets at jaw dropping speed. "Slap and Tickle" is outstanding whilst the solo in "Take me I'm Yours" is breathtaking and literally lifts the roof off Whelan's. Quite where he saw this spirited version in the plodding original is anyone's guess. Other staples like "Pulling Mussels", "Tempted" and "Another Nail in My Heart" keep things racing along with obvious crowd pleasers like "Black Coffee in Bed" and covers of "Ticket to Ride" and "Vodoo Chile" keep the punters in fine voice.
Before we know it, two hours have passed and Tilbrook finishes with "Up the Junction". It really is fantastic to see a consummate performer in full flow and on top of his game. The Squeeze journey has been a strange one... from pub rock to synth excess and in later years a more mellow leaning. Still, stripped to their bare essentials, the quality of the songs shines through - close your eyes and you could be forgiven for thinking Neil Finn was slumming it. Not to be missed the next time he hits Whelan's.