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Concert Review by Nick Morgan

Hammersmith Apollo, London
December 4th 2007

Given the degree of antipathy that has existed between them in the past it seems remarkable that Glen Tilbrook and Chris Difford ever managed to write any songs together, let alone produce so many fantastic and enduring pop hits. As they powered Squeeze through twenty-one years (with a three-year break in 1985) of eighteen UK Top Fifty hit singles, twelve studio albums and numerous tours around the world their relationship was frequently on the rocks: “We spent at least twenty years not communicating about anything” said the wordsmith of the pair Difford, in a recent interview. “We fell out somewhere between the first and second album” confirmed guitarist, singer, composer and sometime studio Stalinist Tilbrook – “I was” he added, “an arsey git”.

Well arsey or not, Tilbrook and Gifford have returned to the stage with almost-original bassist John Bentley, drummer Simon Hanson and keyboard player Stephen Large (both from Tilbrook’s band the Fluffers) for a US tour, a few festivals, and a string of gigs across the UK. And of course there’s a new album – well, a new ‘best of’ album, The Essential Squeeze, and a live album, Five Live, recorded in the United States earlier in the year.
Ted Baker Oh yes, and for a mere ten quids there’s a tour programme, which almost everyone seems to have a copy of in this very full Hammersmith Apollo. And such has been the demand for seats that this is now the first of two nights in the capital. And the Squeeze fans are out in full – moving backwards and forwards to and from the bar like shifty market traders passing in the night. As the police cars speed past outside round the Broadway on their way to Heathrow (I’m sure they’re doing ninety), gangs of geezers and likely lads, swearing like how’s your father, Ted Baker shirts and pints of lager, pose at the bar – and it is funny, isn’t it Serge, how their missus always looks the bleeding same?
Actually this turns out to be less of a concert and more of an assault course as the band take the stage and launch a barrage of hits at a mostly supplicant audience. Most might choose to leave gold-standard songs like ‘Take me I’m yours’ and the wonderful ‘Up the junction’ to the end of the set – but here they start the evening off and introduce an almost relentless set of hit after hit. Did they really play so many? Support act, a rather disappointing King Creosote had been loud and poorly mixed; now the mix is better but the volume is still high. Tilbrook works like a Trojan – he has the voice of an angel and the energy of a red setter – he can also play the lead guitar with greater accomplishment than I might have imagined. Co-conspirator Difford, with a hopelessly low-key and slightly flat voice shimmies across the stage in the background, only occasionally moving to the front. Tilbrook is of course the voice of Squeeze – but when it’s combined with Difford (‘Cool for cats’) the effect is totally , well…Squeeze. And hit after hit like wave after wave they come – the lager-fuelled audience in ever greater stages of out-of-body excess (and believe me that’s a lot of body to be out of); revelling in South London tributes such as ‘In Quintessence’ (can they really all have come from Deptford?).
And I should add there are so many songs, I ran out of pages in my little black book, but as for the set list, well if you think they might have played it, then they probably did. I do seem to recall, as the bodies were being carried out on stretchers suffering from a surfeit of hits (better than lampreys I suppose), that they finished with ‘Goodbye girl’, ‘Hourglass’, ‘Pulling Mussels (from a shell)’ and ‘Cool for cats’. Blimey. And as if we hadn’t had enough, they strode back on the stage, thanked us ‘for coming out’ (did we?) and finished for the second time with ‘Tempted’ and ‘Black coffee in bed’ which had everyone singing along like a right old London knees-up. Great songs played with surprising verve, energy and enthusiasm. And each one as fresh and exciting as a Christmas gift plucked from a fireside stocking – hang on – is it really that time of year again …? - Nick Morgan (concert photograph by Kate)

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