Whatever you come away thinking after seeing a Squeeze show, there is one thing that cannot be doubted – at this point in their career, fun is the aim of the game.
A packed UEA Waterfront greeted messrs Difford and Tilbrook in Norwich on Sunday evening shortly after a warm-up set by Paul Heaton & his band. A son of Hull (adopted) and perhaps the city’s best known export, Heaton seemed not fazed to be ranked as an opening act playing for a growing crowd in some smelly student union, just 8 years (more or less to the day) after I saw him perform with The Beautiful South to a full house in London. Heaton’s set was satisfying one, if slightly erratic and featured some Beautiful South classics interspersed with some more recent solo efforts. Ending with the joyous Caravan of Love, which featured a premature Squeeze appearance – albeit with tongue firmly in cheek – the stage was set for the second assault.
Entering on stage right, Chris Difford looked particularly dapper dressed in a suit, and with the removal of Glenn Tilbrook’s summer goate the impression is given that the band have made an effort for the evening. Kicking off at a middling pace with tracks like Annie Get Your Gun and the underrated Without You Here from their last studio album, Domino (1998), Squeeze quickly got into the feel of things, despite the rather lacklustre response from a mostly middle-aged audience. The band was tighter than when I last saw them two years ago and the set-list considerably improved.
The change of having an acoustic section broke the show up nicely and gave the crowd a chance to sing, shout and cry along with classics such as Labelled With Love and Take Me I’m Yours. New songs were met with a polite response, but the foot-stomping hits that define Squeeze went down the best.
Most interesting for an avid fan like myself was the inclusion of several Difford and Tilbrook solo tracks with a unique new ‘full band’ reworking, with a ukulele here and a vaudeville interpretation there. These underrated tracks like Difford’s On My Own I’m Never Bored and Tilbrook’s Still gain much played as a group effort, and it is pleasing to see these songs reaching a wider audience. Though it was the last night of the tour, Tilbrook’s voice was in fine form throughout.
The enthusiasm of Squeeze shone through the most on classics like Up The Junction and Another Nail In My Heart; during the latter song, Paul Heaton repayed the earlier Caravan of Love shenanigan by appearing on stage and pretending to sweep the feet of Chris Difford with a broomstick. Here it was – two of all-time favourite lyricists standing next to each other in jest – I knew that whatever else might happen, the night was a firm success for me.
After Tilbrook lead the band into a typical carnival-esque singalong with set-closer Goodbye Girl, they wandered over to a desk to sign records and chat to fans. As part of their ‘pop-up shop’ concept, Squeeze have recorded each night of the tour and sold it after the show as a limited edition CD purchase. The band has now reached an age where they are in the music business for the pure enjoyment of it, and this something that remains in the mind after leaving their show. Each concert is like a celebration. Next year there is hopefully something new to celebrate: an album of new material and more live shows to go with it. Bring it on!