Squeeze & John Cooper Clarke

Saturday 26th September 2015

Glive, Guildford, Surrey, United Kingdom

An evening of words and music, we were told by the MC…and more of that later.

It’s hard to challenge Squeeze as masters of the radio-friendly pop single. They have had so many hits that, like The Searchers or The Kinks, it’s somewhat difficult to fit them all in to an evening’s entertainment. Most get an airing tonight, to this enthusiastic Surrey crowd, many of whom went home with a double-disc set of the night’s music ; the merchandise side of the tour has been very well thought-out and they will make a mint thereon, plenty of t shirts with the odd DC Comics touch in the lettering, albums, posters . The new album is full of good tunes and Glenn will review it separately here.

Most importantly, this edition of the Squeeze touring band is one of the best – apart from mainmen Glenn Tilbrook, principally on well-defined but slightly thin-toned Telecaster and Chris Difford, mostly a set of electro-acoustics, the band features glamorous electric and double bassist Lucy Shaw, keys man Stephen Large, hopping on to melodica, accordion. Wurlitzer et al depending upon the demands of the number, flexible drummer Simon Hanson and multi-instrumentalist Melvin Duffy, shining on guitars and pedal steel. Hence every song selected from the Grateful Dead reference-strewn ‘Electric Trains’ to ‘Labelled with Love’ – an audience favourite – to ‘Pulling Mussels From a Shell’ the instrumentation is spot-on. Every now and then the band loosen up for some semi-improvisation, but this act doesn’t really ever nod to jazz or blues..however they do use country chords, scales and melodies as part of their canon, happily WITHOUT the cod-redneck vocalising employed by far too many. The audience lapped up ‘Up The Junction’, ‘Cool For Cats’, the fine ‘Tempted’ which is surely one of the best pop songs ever?, the different-sounding ‘Another Nail In My Heart’and ‘ Slap & Tickle’.

By the end of the show I was hoping for a switch of style and some space. That came with first encore ‘Snap Crackle & Pop’, which could almost be a Josh Rouse song, an airy ache of a number which Tilbrook seemed proud of when talking briefly to him post-show. This cut ends the ’Cradle To the Grave’ collection, btw. The other highlight was a stomp through ‘Take Me, I’m Yours’ that did justice to the song’s dynamics and mood.

One curious thing: apart from a few mumbles about their contributions to the new Danny Baker TV series, Squeeze say very, very little to their audience. I know no more about them or their songs than I did when I took my seat. This is an observation, not a criticism. They play a load of songs with spirit and style and are clearly enjoying the experience (even Difford, who claims to be slightly less grumpy than another major musical figure to me after the performance). I’d be the first to agree that Gary Numan and Robin Trower aren’t exactly chatty on stage BUT if you see, say, The NY Dictators with Handsome Dick Manitoba or The Blues Band’s Dave Kelly you get all the songs plus the odd explanation or joke and I warm to that.

So…the ‘words’ part of the evening is down to opener John Cooper Clarke, whose cartoonish figure leaps to the mike to barrage the audience with aged hipster poetry and dour commentary. With his dark mass of hair and shades, he makes a better advert for erudition than addiction. Slick with rhymes and strong on taunting, Clarke verbally machine guns the attendees, pausing to veer into happily non-PC Jewish jokes and acerbic banter. His subjects range from drugs to urban decay to human behaviour. I won’t spoil his intro ‘list’ gag. ‘Beasley Street’ maintains its manic Kafka-on-a rocket mantra impact, but we are spared ‘Readers’ Wives’. One poem is an expletive-soaked rush of phrases; I fear few bookings on ‘Songs of Praise’ for this cat. He makes an impression and is well-received – this generation deserve their own Lenny Bruce, I guess.

Another good night out in a great venue.

Pete Sargeant

Squeeze’s new album ‘Cradle To The Grave’ is released on Virgin/EMI on Friday 2nd October 2015. 

Squeeze’s ‘From The Cradle To The Grave’ UK Tour with special guest Dr John Cooper Clarke will visit the following venues in Autumn 2015:

Monday 28th September – Brighton Dome, Brighton

Tuesday 29th September – Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes

Thursday 1st October –  Colston Hall, Bristol

Friday 2nd October –  City Hall, Sheffield 

Saturday 3rd October –  Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Monday 5th October –  Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

Tuesday 6th October – De Montfort Hall, Leicester

Thursday 8th October –  Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham

Friday 9th October –  St Davids Hall, Cardiff, Wales

Saturday 10th October –  Cliffs Pavilion, Southend

Monday 12th October – Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Tuesday 13th October –  Pavilion Theatre, Bournemouth

 Thursday 15th October – Royal Albert Hall, London

Friday 16th October –  Corn Exchange, Cambridge

Saturday 17th October – Indigo at the O2, London

Monday 19th October –  Regent Theatre, Ipswich

Tuesday 20th October –  New Theatre, Oxford

Wednesday 21st Oct –  The Sage, Gateshead

Friday 23rd October –  Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Scotland

Saturday 24th Oct – Harrogate International Centre, Harrogate

Tickets also available at  www.gigsandtours.com ,  http://gigst.rs/Squeeze and www.ticketmaster.co.uk. By phone at 0844 811 0051 or 0844 826 2826.

London from £25.00 to £75.00. All others from £32.50 to £47.50

For more information on the new album and UK Tour visit: http://www.squeezeofficial.com/

(* Thanks Sue and thanks Sara and everyone at GLive in Guildford)