SQUEEZE + JOHN COOPER CLARKE – BRIGHTON CENTRE 26.11.22
It was a windy, wet Saturday evening in November and a jovial audience of Squeeze fans of a certain age gradually filled up the Brighton Centre. On arrival we were treated to a fine tribute to the recently deceased Wilko Johnson as many of his and Dr Feelgood’s hits blasted out across the auditorium.
In 1973 two south London teenagers from Deptford, Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford, named their band after a Velvet Underground album, and John Cale, after hearing this, produced their debut EP ‘Packet Of Three’ and most of their following albums.
The early line up included Jools Holland on keys, Harry Kakouli on bass and Paul Gunn on drums. Squeeze’s excellent line up and musicianship was, and remains, only matched by the pure poetry of their lyrics, Ian Dury & The Blockheads being the only other London band who created such poetry around the same time (not including The Beatles, although, along with The Kinks, they were obviously influences on Tilbrook and Difford).
The band’s second album ‘Cool For Cats’, released in 1979, cemented their place as one of Britain’s most important young bands and featured the classic single ‘Up The Junction’. The band broke up in 1982, reforming in 1985 and has had its ups and downs since, with many changes in personnel over the decades. The issue of the album ‘Spot The Difference’ in 2010 marked a new era for the band after a gap of 12 years since the previous Squeeze album.
Squeeze’s songs have often highlighted social concerns, whether covering teenage pregnancy in ‘Up The Junction’ or getting old in ‘Labelled With Love’; their current UK Tour is called ‘Food For Thought’ which continues this trend with support for The Trussell Trust. As we arrived at the venue many contributed to the call for food and donations. The Trust’s aim is to help to raise food, funds and awareness of the 1,200 food bank centres across the UK and also campaign for change to end the need for them. The lyrics in ‘Food For Thought’ Squeeze’s latest EP reflects their political views and dissatisfaction with the status quo:
“Cosy contracts for their mates; Cutting help right to the bone; Empty stomachs freezing homes”.
Find out how much food was donated and how much cash was raised tonight by reading our update article HERE.
The band took to the stage quickly and launched straight into ‘Take Me I’m Yours’, which was an offer the enthusiastic audience could not refuse, swiftly followed by ‘Hourglass’ from the album ‘Babylon And On’, one of many songs which displayed Tilbrook’s distinctive vocals and guitar.
Their large cannon of work gave the band a rich seam from which to cherry pick this tour’s setlist, and sure-fire favourites were cleverly interspersed with less well-known tracks from various albums over the decades. ‘Up The Junction’, a memorable crowd pleaser was the first number to cause rippling excitement across the audience of discerning fans, the bright blue screens of numerous mobile phones could be seen recording the song through the darkness.
There was little chat between songs as Difford and Tilbrook let the music provide the banter, cruising through numbers which included such hits as ‘From The Cradle To The Grave’, ‘Labelled With Love’, and ‘Pulling Mussels From The Shell’. Halfway through the set the band played ‘Food For Thought’, their latest track and providing this tour’s title, which already has the reassuring sound of a much-loved Squeeze song and fulfilled the promise of its title.
My personal favourites of the evening were ‘Electric Trains’ and ‘Cool For Cats’. The band’s current favourite to play, Difford told us, was ‘Letting Go’, from their 1991 album ‘Play’, a song about the end of a relationship, penned with their trademark incisive honesty. Difford and Tilbrook, now in their sixties had lost none of their sharpness and musical skills, and Tilbrook’s vocals and guitar playing were as fresh as ever. The only negative of this joyous gig was that the sound could have been better balanced, Tilbrook’s vocals were sadly sometimes overpowered by the sound of the rest of the band.
The tight and extremely professional band were all very smartly attired in whistles of varying styles and were obviously playing with enthusiasm and gusto, nobody more so than Stephen Large, who, sporting a white suit, strutted and frolicked flamboyantly at his keyboards with increasing energy. At this point I must give a shout out to the great Melvin Duffy, not only a local Hove resident and excellent pedal steel guitar player, but also a member of, amongst others, another brilliant live band, Los Pacaminos. (A previous keyboard player with Squeeze, the late Matt Irving, was a formative member and Difford has also, incidentally, been an honorary member of the band).
Returning to Squeeze, and ‘Goodbye Girl’ got everyone up dancing and the set finished on ‘Cool For Cats’, with ‘Slap & Tickle’ and ‘Black Coffee In Bed’ providing the encore and allowing all the band to showcase their skills with individual solos.
The whole concert had been a great celebration of Difford and Tilbrook’s 50 years of songwriting, terrific lyrics and perfect catchy tunes, it was all we hoped for and more… definitely food for thought. The audience filed out happily with continued huge affection for Squeeze and their sharp, society-reflecting songbook.
Chris Difford – vocals, rhythm guitar
Glenn Tilbrook – vocals, lead guitar
Simon Hanson – drummer, backing vocals
Stephen Large – keyboards, backing vocals
Steve Smith – percussion, rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Melvin Duffy – pedal and lap steel guitars
Sean Hurley – bass
‘Take Me I’m Yours’
‘Up The Junction’
‘What Have They Done?’
‘From The Cradle To The Grave’
‘I Think I’m Go Go’
‘Labelled With Love’
‘Food For Thought’
‘Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)’
‘Is That Love?’
‘Annie Get Your Gun’
‘No Place Like Home’
‘Someone Else’s Heart’
‘The Very First Dance’
‘Another Nail In My Heart’
‘Cool For Cats’
‘Slap & Tickle’
‘Black Coffee In Bed’
Support this evening came from Dr John Cooper Clarke who is a poet, TV and radio presenter and cultural commentator, a major cultural influence for over four decades, described by Sir Paul McCartney as “One of Britain’s outstanding poets” and is known as the ‘people’s poet’. I can’t help but agree with Sir Paul, I own a copy of ‘The Luckiest Guy Alive” and enjoy dipping into it. Born in Salford and sometimes also referred to as ‘The Bard Of Salford’ he is now living in Colchester.
Cooper Clarke’s career and life is as colourful and varied as his poetry and as individual as his punky, ageing rock star style, he has supported many musicians on tour over the decades, including the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Elvis Costello; he has also made many appearances on television and in documentaries, most notably the hilarious ‘Evidently… John Cooper Clarke’, produced by his own production company; he has also produced acclaimed albums and written his autobiography ‘I Wanna Be Yours’.
I wondered how the audience would react to a poet reading his poems to them in rapid succession, but never underestimate the public… or in this case, fans of Squeeze. This wordsmith was an ideal pairing for the lyrically rich Squeeze, and he speedily read a variety of his poems interspersed with some very old jokes, some of which, peppered with swear words, were deliberately aimed to upset the ‘politically correct’ faction of the audience while entertaining the rest of us. Clarke’s work was known and loved by a large number of the audience, with cheers for their favourites ‘Beasley Street’ and ‘Chickentown’. He rounded off his set by reading ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ which he was proud to remind us had been turned into a song by The Arctic Monkeys.
The Brighton audience warmed to Clarke, his often cheeky, irreverent and humorous poems chimed with them, this one-off people’s poet was one of them, you felt, and the nearest we have to an entertainer from the old music hall tradition but who is very relevant today.
John Cooper Clarke setlist:
‘Get Back On Drugs You Fat F*ck’
‘Bed Blocker Blues’
‘Lydia, Girl With An Itch’
‘Home Honey I’m High/Things Are Gonna Get Worse’
‘I’ve Fallen In Love With My Wife’
‘I Wanna Be Yours’
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