Squeezing through the aisles
Review: Squeeze, Pop Up Shop
I think it's a fact that anyone who hasn't seen Squeeze perform live has not experienced the spirit of New Wave at its best.
Without resorting to clichéd superlatives, the band's current 'Pop Up Shop' tour is - both in terms of music and vocals - quite simply dynamic and brilliant.
The Symphony Hall last Friday night was almost packed with a generation of a certain age - too young to remember the sixties; too old for Blur and Oasis; too young to be just sitting in their seats and clapping; too old to be dancing in the aisles.
The gig kicked off with an hour of Paul Heaton - the former frontman of two iconic bands. He sang an eclectic range from his new solo CD 'The 8th' as well as some familiar tunes from The Housemartins and The Beautiful South. It was good to see his sardonic wit, left-wing politics and satire still at the forefront of his music and lyrics. 'What separates the human race/It ain't digits, it ain't sums/It's capital's ability to point finger at the slums' he sings in 'Panther'. Vocally he is pitch-perfect, note-perfect. This fact is accentuated in some of the nice cappella pieces especially in 'Caravan of Love'.
However, one or two songs are a tad convoluted such as 'Pharaoh's Boot' and 'Gluttony' - where allusions to Hiroshima, police brutality and Vietnam went over my head. Nevertheless, he has retained his mellifluous Yorkshire voice - which hasn't changed since 'Happy Hour' in the early eighties.
Squeeze - a punk band for a couple of months in the seventies - are an absolute delight.
They opened with the loud, booming sound of 'Bang Bang' from their debut album in 1978 and from there they went from strength to strength, beating out old hits as if it were yesterday again. I thoroughly enjoyed 'No Place Like Home', 'Still', 'Take Me I'm Yours', 'Tommy' and 'Top of the Form'. And their acoustic rendition of 'Labelled With Love' is just beautifully poetic. At one point, 'Cradle To The Grave' - sounded vocally - like piece from The Beautiful South. Others, however, like 'Cowboys Are My Weakness' taken from Difford's solo album (downloadable from the internet) seemed a tad contrived. With a country and western ring, it's a departure from their usual sound (written for KD Lang or Dolly Parton - both of whom - understandably - turned it down respectively).
But that's just a minor point of observation, it's not a really criticism.
On the whole, it's impressive to hear that - despite hitting fifties - both Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook have kept their musical notes firmly intact. In doing so they managed not only to recreate the original sound of the late seventies Britain - the youths, the punk era, the sound of south London - but on stage they seemed a legacy of that period of political agitation and awakening. The images of inner city Britain on the mini screens, for instance (along with early pictures of Difford and Tilbook), were effectively employed - poignant and synchronised with the music. The whole thing is very atmospheric like a recreation of the old times.
It would, however, be wrong to suppose that the band are merely regurgitating old stuff for purely sentimental gloss. Although a sprinkling of nostalgia litters the show, it was good to see them giving a nod to new artists, embracing technology, taking control of their own merchandising and selling live CD recordings of each venue at the end of the show. They are nice touches, I thought.
This reviewer was certainly entertained and transported to his teenage years at school even if he had to contend with portly men and women rocking, jiving and swaying to the sounds like elderly grandparents. Hm.