Squeeze – The Grand Opera House – Wilmington, DE – February 22, 2020
Squeeze touched down in Wilmington for only the second show of their “Songbook 2020” US Tour, but they already felt like a well-oiled machine. And what a songbook it is – Squeeze head honchos, singers and songwriters (and the only original members still in the band) Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook have put together quite a body of work in the past forty-some years.
Originally blessed and cursed with the dreaded “Next Beatles” tag when they exploded onto the scene in the late 70s – several bands were given that accolade, but none really ever lived up to it – Squeeze became big stars in the 1980s in their UK homeground. They were more a beloved cult band in the States than actual hitmakers. They only had two top 40 hits in the US – and neither of them are considered the band’s most memorable tunes, in fact one of those two (“853-5937”) didn’t even make the over-20 song setlist of the show. Arguably their best-known song – “Tempted” – just missed the top 40 when originally released.
Yet their songbook is studded with classics – the aforementioned “Tempted,” “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell),” “Black Coffee in Bed,” “Cool for Cats,” “Another Nail for My Heart” and more – all of which were allowed to let their flags fly in glorious (and sometimes surprising) fashion.
The band opened up with a couple of semi-obscurities, though wonderful examples of Difford and Tilbrook’s songcraft, “Footprints” and “Big Beng.” By the third song they pulled out what was by far Squeeze’s biggest US hit – though one that is now slightly forgotten in time – the top-ten tongue twister “Hourglass,” a song that is still as surreal, intriguing and propulsive as the Dali-esque video that helped it become an MTV staple in 1987 (back in the days when MTV still played music).
The crowd was then transported by a tight run-throughs of fan faves “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)” and “Up the Junction” before the group settled into another deep dive into the playbook, dropping knowledge of some lesser known, forgotten or newer songs like “King George Street,” “Cradle to the Grave,” “Third Rail” and “In Quintessence.” They also played with genres, from the gorgeous alt-country of “Labelled with Love” to the Teddy Boy mod rockabilly of “Cool for Cats,” which was one of only two lead vocals by guitarist Difford.
The group played with some of their song structures – “Slap and Tickle” was nearly unrecognizable in its slowed-down two-man acoustic form and “Tempted” was started in a nearly a capella man-and-guitar vibe before slowly adding instruments throughout the tune, not reaching the traditional full-band sound until the final chorus.
By the time the band hit its encore of the bouncy early favorite “Take Me I’m Yours” and an extremely extended take on the new wave classic “Black Coffee in Bed,” Squeeze had the audience eating out of their hands.
The opening act was Look Park, the duo headed by former Fountains of Wayne lead singer Chris Collingwood. The set was a short-but-sweet and mellow mix of songs from Look Park’s 2016 debut album supplemented by a few relatively obscure FOW deep album tracks which were written by Collingwood.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2020 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 25, 2020.
Photos by Jim Rinaldi © 2020.