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LIVE: SQUEEZE, Perth – 1 May, 2018

| 8 May 2018 | Reply

LIVE: SQUEEZE, Perth – 1 May, 2018
With Dr John Cooper Clark
The Astor Theatre, Perth, Western Australia; Tuesday, 1 May, 2018
Review & photography by Peter Gardner

Over the last half a century there have been some iconic song writing partnerships – several roll off the tongue easily, like Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards, Strummer/Jones, Andersson/Ulvaeus. Included in that list with honours is Difford/Tilbrook.

This partnership created many of the iconic songs which formed a backdrop to the post punk new wave landscape of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, as the 1970’s became the ‘80s. Squeeze’s current incarnation, notably minus Chris Difford on tour at least, finished their Australian tour to a packed house at Perth’s Astor Theatre. Glenn Tilbrook took his audience on a semi nostalgic trip with a set list crossing their entire career, with a healthy serving of material from the latest album, The Knowledge.

I must confess this was one show I had been looking forward to: Cool For Cats and Up The Junction [Editor’s note: released in Australia under the name UK Squeeze] were on constant play on the radio around the time I was discovering girls. Looking around the audience, I realised this is what the New Wave teenagers of 1980 look like today – a few more wrinkles, and a little more portly, but I swear I saw at least one guy wearing eyeliner – and judging by the accents, most of them were British expats reliving their youth.

Starting proceedings however was something quite different, as we were treated to an hour of Dr John Cooper Clarke, the original Punk Poet. To the delight of the audience, Cooper Clark mixed his classic poetry, read from hand written exercise books, with one liners (‘how deep would the sea be if there were no sponges in it?”) and rambling monologues regarding the horrors of chimpanzee butlers and meeting the Dalai Lama at Glastonbury.

Treating the crowd to a reading of Beasley Street, Cooper Clark explains the poem is always used to narrate documentaries about the awfulness of Thatchers Britain, before explaining he actually wrote it several years before “the bitch ever got into power,” and finishing the set with the tirade of Evidently Chickentown, his well-known opus on futility, which uses the word “fucking” more times than Tarantino’s entire back catalogue. Many of Cooper Clark’s poems are reproduced on his website, and its worth spending an hour or two acquainting yourself with this mans work if you haven’t already done so.

Glenn Tilbrook is a master craftsman, a world class song writer, a unique voice which still sounds as good as it did on Goodbye Girl in 1978, and a wonderful guitar player. This is all the more evident considering the loss of Difford from the stage.

He has surrounded himself with an excellent band, and the sound is superb as they open the night with Please Be Upstanding from the latest album. Squeeze blend easily into Pulling Mussels From The Shell, and the set alternates seamlessly between old and new songs.

Difford and Tilbrook’s writing is the musical equivalent of a Lowry painting, with vignettes of characters experiencing real life and pulling you into the stories they weave, not dissimilar to the type of narrative often found in Springsteen’s work, but with a very British inflection. The new material is easily as good as the old, and still refuses to shy away from the subject matter as they did 40 years ago. Of note, Rough Ride is especially poignant, highlighting the struggles of the young in the era of austerity, and Final Score, relating the experiences of a man dealing with the trauma of childhood abuse.

The band are in fine form – all brilliant musicians, they blend together on stage, and all take a turn with the backing vocals and harmonies. Especially notable were the superb performances of Yolanda Charles on bass, who has previously played with the likes of Eric Clapton, Paul Weller and BB King, and drummer Simon Hanson, formerly of Death In Vegas, as well as percussionist Steve Smith, who came to the front of the stage on a few occasions to take up guitar and vocal duties left by the absent Difford.

The audience is in fine voice for classics such as Labelled With Love, and Tempted, but the real standouts of the set were Goodbye Girl, with Smith and Hanson thoroughly enjoying themselves on percussion duties, and Up The Junction, sung word perfect by the audience. The culmination of the set with Slap And Tickle had the band once again showing how damn good they are, with Hansen seriously endangering his kit as his drum sticks disappeared into a blur and keyboard player Stephen Large throwing karate chops at his mellotron.

Returning to the stage for the encore, the only time the band seemed anything but seamless was with Smith singing Cool For Cats, which seemed to lack Difford’s distinctive “Sarf London” accent. Tilbrook does, however, take a moment to try and explain his bandmate’s absence, first joking he had failed to cancel the contract he had taken out on Difford, but then explaining that Chris Difford is afraid of flying, hence his absence on the tour. How true this is I have no idea, as he was present for the recent US tour, and he probably didn’t take a boat. The night is finished with Is That Love and a great rendition of Black Coffee In Bed, complete with note perfect audience participation.

One of the benefits of seeing shows in Perth is that it is usually at the end of a band’s Australian excursion. Having had time to acclimatise and get over the jet lag, they often give one of the best shows of the tour and this was evident tonight, with brilliant performances all round.

It was a pleasure to see a Tilbrook still at the top of his game after over 40 years, still writing and producing new music with the same quality and heart as he did in his top 40 charting heyday. At a time when other bands have become sad shadows of themselves, just regurgitating the hits of their prime, it was a breath of fresh air to see Squeeze showing everyone how it should be done.

Set List:
Please Be Upstanding
Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)
Final Score
Rough Ride
Annie Get Your Gun
Innocence in Paradise
Labelled With Love
Cradle to the Grave
Another Nail in My Heart
Departure Lounge
Take Me I’m Yours
Wicked and Cruel
Goodbye Girl
Up the Junction
Slap and Tickle

Cool for Cats
Is That Love
Black Coffee in Bed

Category: Live Reviews, Photo Galleries

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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