Squeeze / Dec. 4, 2007 / London (Hammersmith Apollo)
The year of the reunion has generally been the stuff of arenas and stadia around the world, but in the slightly more modest surroundings of west London, the first show in the capital since 1998 by SquThe year of the reunion has generally been the stuff of arenas and stadia around the world, but in the slightly more modest surroundings of west London, the first show in the capital since 1998 by Squeeze provided its own emotional energy.
Towards the end of the performance, Glenn Tilbrook admitted that there were times when he and Chris Difford, his co-writer of the band's much-loved catalog, would cross the road to avoid each other, and some where they came to blows. Recent years have seen a rapprochement that led them to write together again, if not as yet under the group banner.
That's a sign of the respect they've developed for each other's solo work, which has Tilbrook as busy as ever on the road (he's already announced a fall 2008 tour) and Difford preparing a second solo album for spring release on the revived Stiff label. He'll also tour the U.K. around that time with acoustic troubadour Boo Hewerdine. But late 2007 has been all about reminding loyal fans (and perhaps themselves) of the enduring impact still wielded by their songbook.
King Creosote, the recording identity of idiosyncratic Scotsman Kenny Anderson, provided appropriate warm-up, with songs from this year's well-received 679 Recordings/Warner Bros. CD "Bombshell." Anderson, from Fife, will start a new British tour Jan. 25 with a performance at the Celtic Connections event in Glasgow.
The Squeeze lineup that has coalesced around Difford and Tilbrook features John Bentley, who played bass with the band from 1980-82. He took his part in a show on this "Quintessential Tour" that, to use the popular British expression, did exactly what it said on the tin. In fact, it's hard to remember when Squeeze were ever quite as good as this first time around, and that was a long first time.
The group took the stage to the drum machine intro of "Take Me I'm Yours," and just a few months shy of 30 years since it became their debut hit, the song was undiminished. As they immediately segued into "Up the Junction," an unstoppable opening was consolidated, and one was reminded that while the writers can perform perfectly adequate versions of these songs solo, there's no substitute for the double billing of Tilbrook's faultless leads and Difford's authoritative vocal basslines.
Seemingly eager to make up for lost time and to capture the quintessence of Squeeze, they ploughed on with barely a word to the audience save for Tilbrook's cheery thank-you's. Thus, in 100 minutes or so, they performed just about every hit, every miss and many delights in between.
Highlights included not just the obvious "Cool for Cats," the splendid country pastiche "Labelled With Love" and "Is That Love," but later singles such as "Hourglass" and the ever-moving "Some Fantastic Place." Tilbrook's pitch-perfect and tireless vocals inevitably took some of the spotlight from his impressively agile electric guitar leads.
The band gave every impression of enjoying each other's company as much as the rapturous reception to their return. The spirit of '78, so to speak, is captured on the new album "Five Live -- On Tour in America," recorded earlier this year and released this month on the Love label.