This Squeeze article was written by Eva Hibbs, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson. Lead photo by Daniel Robson
Whoever thought up a bill of Dr. John Cooper Clarke followed by Squeeze is nothing short of an entertainment prodigy. There’s a certain confidence in the randomness of it all. I wonder if they questioned whether Squeeze’s devotees were prepared for the doctor’s subversion…
Cooper Clarke bounds onto the stage like a starling dipped in ink. He immediately commands the room with a gag about a forgotten guest list that he recites in light-speed semblance. With characteristic rhythm, he tells us of his move to minimalism that culminated in an encounter with the Dali Lama at Glastonbury. “You can’t have everything,” he jokes. “Where would you put it?” We revisit grim ‘Beasley Boulevard’ and ‘Chickentown’, a fast-paced poem where the F word acts as punctuation. Though he expresses concern at becoming an NHS ‘bed blocker’ the years haven’t touched him. The crowd knowingly chuckle at his punch lines where even an album plug becomes a parody. The doctor feels as relevant as ever.
The canvas on the stage is stripped back during the interval and the waiting showcase is revealed. Five acoustic guitars, two electric and a ukulele sit poised on the stage amongst their buddies – keyboards, drums, bass. The lights of the New Theatre dim and there’s a murmur of excitement from the seated crowd. Already strumming as he runs on, Glen Tilbrook swiftly counts in the rest of the band. As an opening number, 1987’s ‘Hourglass’ sets the pace. A giant display screen behind them shows monochromatic cars speeding through London as red, white and yellow lights dance from corner to corner of the theatre. From the get go, it’s undeniable that Squeeze are pop veterans. New additions Laura (spritely bassist) and Stephen (eccentric keyboardist) keep up commendably with their more mature band-mates, whose energy is more present than ever.
The band’s youthful personality also expresses itself via the video screen throughout the night. During an older catalogue of songs such as ‘Is That Love’ and ‘Electric Trains’ we watch ants scarper over a world map and a warped woman twirl on the tube. It’s for this reason that ‘Some Fantastic Place’s’ “We grew up learning as we went” resonates. Throughout their set, we are urged to think of who they were then, who they are now and who we were then and who we are now. Is there a disparity at all? Momentarily, Glen Tilbrook shifts the tone as he takes a solo on the piano. His voice reverberates through the theatre as he, somewhat incongruously (given the tone of the night), reiterates that “Today is none of our concern.”
At their thirteenth song of the night, ‘Labeled With Love’, people are on their feet. Stephen’s taken to the accordion and Lucy to the cello. At original Squeeze guitarist Chris’ request, all sitting stragglers join the rest of the crowd in rising. They then take us aboard their hit express with ‘Goodbye Girl’, ‘Black Coffee in Bed’ and title track off their latest release (also soundtrack to new Danny Baker sitcom), ‘From The Cradle To The Grave’. They casually tell us it’s their first release this century, and you know what? It’s as catchy as our old favourites. Once again, the song’s accompanied by a quirky video that forces us to consider where each of them came from, and where they’re going to end up.
A humble cover of Tom Waits gets the audience cheering; Chris’ gravelly voice suits it down to the ground. We can’t help but groove with them to classics ‘Tempted’ and ‘Pulling Muscles (From the Shell)’. Even after playing for an hour and a half, Squeeze are cheered into an encore. They swing into their last three songs with ease, leaving us assured that they could play for double the time and the vigour wouldn’t drop. In fact, tonight’s energy could be a metaphor for Squeeze over the years: unexpendable.