Corn Exchange, Cambridge – 17 Nov 2012
Squeeze: the best band in British popular music. There – I said it. There is a scant amount of music that compares to the humour and humanity in Chris Difford’s lyrics, coupled with Glenn Tilbrook’s incredible melodies and harmonic progressions that wantonly plunge from key-to-key like Tchaikovsky on drugs. Likewise, few rhythm sections share the same energy as drummer Simon Hanson and bassist John Bentley and even fewer keyboardists are as worthy of the description “maverick” as Lord Stephen Large.
Anyway, they were playing the Corn Exchange last Saturday. It was the second date of their “Pop-Up Shop” tour, their most exciting and adventurous set of gigs since their 2007 reformation.
The 90-minute, double-encore concert covered the breadth of Squeeze’s first two lives (1974-82; 1985-99). There was the generous helping of greatest hits – Up the Junction, Tempted, Pulling Mussels (From the Shell), Cool for Cats, Black Coffee in Bed – but also re-workings of obscurities such as the novelty 1978 single Bang Bang and the gorgeous Without You Here of twenty years later. Twelve-string acoustic versions of Take Me, I’m Yours and the 1981 #4 country hit, Labelled With Love, found themselves in the company of songs from the solo careers of both Difford and Tilbrook, including the poignant-yet-cheeky Still and Cowboys are my weakness.
Most rewardingly, the band played their first new songs in fourteen years: the string quartet-driven tale of the racist Tommy, the ska Top of the Form and the instantly- and insanely-catchy From the Cradle to the Grave. The only off-song of the night, Honey Trap, was mitigated by Squeeze’s masterpiece, Some Fantastic Place, a hymn written in memory of a departed friend, containing perhaps the superlative lyric, melody and guitar solo of the entirety of the extraordinary Squeeze back catalogue.
The title of the tour, ‘Pop-Up Shop’ derives from the shop fronted by the band after the show (following a trip through the audience to Goodbye Girl): each gig is being recorded and flogged immediately afterwards on CD. So this particular reviewer can now say that he’s met and had his photograph taken with his musical heroes. It takes a special gig to make you feel that in love with music. This was one of them.