As lead singer and co-songwriter for British new wave favorites Squeeze, Glenn Tilbrook, working with writing partner Chris Difford, was responsible for worldwide hits such as "Hourglass," "Cool For Cats," "Up The Junction" and "Another Nail in My Heart." The pair were often compared to Lennon and McCartney for their ability to write catchy, intelligent pop.
After 13 albums and countless tours, Squeeze broke up in 1998, with periodic brief reunions in recent years, although Tilbrook and Difford are the only consistent players that reach back to the group's eponymous 1977 debut EP. You could be forgiven for thinking that Tilbrook is happily cruising on his distinguished past and living a lazy life on Squeeze royalties - but you'd be wrong. He's continued to write, record and perform (check out the discography on his web site) and is currently on an American tour that runs through mid-October.
While it would easy for him to do a live show on auto-pilot and simply replay hits of Squeeze's outstanding back catalogue, he's happily chosen a different route. In the course of his Jammin Java show last week (September 11), Tilbrook played fewer Squeeze tracks than he did material from his solo albums - "Pandemonium Ensues," "The Incomplete Glenn Tilbrook" and "Transatlantic Ping-Pong" - and previewed a few cuts from an album in progress. (View the night's actual set list.)
Maybe there were a few fans who would have preferred a simple exercise in nostalgia, but to the crowd and Tillbrook's credit, the night was a rousing success due to great supporting players, a contagious spirit of joie-de-vivre and the quality of Tillbrook's more recent output.
Back in the Squeeze days, Difford provided the dense, clever lyrics and Tillbrook the buoyant melodies. Now that Tillbrook's working both sides of the compositional fence, the lines may be a tad simpler but the intelligence is still there, the rhythms are still toe-tappingly good and that distinctive voice is as strong as ever. So the entire performance sounded like the Squeeze we love and remember.
It was six songs into the two-part concert when the first Squeeze tune, "Annie Get Your Gun," appeared, but Tillbrook had already won over the crowd with his gregarious, MC-style stage patter and a sing-along on the feel-good tune, "The Best of Times." In the solo-album tunes that followed, "Beachland Ballroom" made playful use of an iPad, with which Tillbrook recorded the crowd and made an instant loop to integrate into the tune. After an affecting ballad of long-term romance, "Still," the first set ended with one of Squeeze's biggest hits, "Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)."
Returning to the stage alone with his guitar, Tilbrook veered from the printed set list, adding a trio of Squeeze songs - "Someone Else's Bell," "Is That Love" and "Hourglass" - his two-man band coming back to help with the latter and then to dive into a set of tunes that he described as the "name songs," written for various characters real and imagined. These included "Persephone," "Ray and Me," "Kev and Dave" (drummer Simon Hanson took the lead on this comic study of a pair of pub owners) and "Chat Line Larry," the tale of telephone addict.
As an encore, projecting thanks to a crowd who stood with him all the way through a night of sometimes unfamiliar material, Tilbrook and company, including opener Joe Michelini (of New Jersey band River City Extension), came back for a triple play of older favorites - "Tempted" (although Paul Carrack sang on the original single, Tilbrook made it his own), "Take Me, I'm Yours" and, appropriately, "Goodbye Girl."
Leaving the stage while playing that last song, the band worked its way through the crowd to set up camp near the merch table, where a festival of signing, of both recent CDs and original Squeeze vinyl, capped off a night of reliving old memories and making nice new ones.
Upcoming Glenn Tilbrook live dates:
18 September- Smith's Olde Bar, Atlanta, GA
19 September- Minglewood Hall - 1884 Lounge, Memphis, TNˇ
20 September- The Kessler Theater, Dallas, TX
21 September- Saxon Pub, Austin TX
22 September- Dosey Doe, Houston TX
25 September- Cresent Ballroom, Phoenix AZ
27 September- The Mint, Los Angeles CA
28 September- SLO Brewing Company, San Luis Obispo CA
29 September- Great American Music Hall, San Francisco CA
01 October- Mississipi Studio, Portland OR
02 October- Tractor Tavern, Seattle WA
04 October- The State Room, Salt Lake City UT
05 October- Walnut Room, Denver CO
07 October- The Riot Room, Kansas City, MO
08 October- The Firebird, St Louis MO
09 October- 20th Century Theater, Cincinnati OH
10 October- Rex Theater, Pittsburgh PA
12 October- The Wonder Bar, Asbury Park NJ
13 October- Musikfest Cafe, Bethlehem PA
14 October- Cafe Nine, New Haven CT
15 October- Newton Theater, Newton NJ
16 October- Stage 48, New York NY
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