Concert review: Squeeze brings pop delight and tight set to the Tabernacle


Originally posted Monday, September 23, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Squeeze has had a strange history in the United States. Despite their great predilection for pop hooks and fun, quirky lyrics, top 40 radio largely ignored them. Just two of their songs ever entered the top 40 stateside and "Tempted" wasn't one of them.

But the band's 1982 greatest hits album "Singles - 45s and Under" became a ubiquitous part of any college student's CD collection (including mine), eventually going platinum. And Americans who owned that CD - heavily in their 40s and 50s - amassed at a sold-out Tabernacle to see primary lyricist Chris Difford and melodic lead singer Glenn Tilbrook sing the core hits from that album as well as some other cuts from their 40-plus year history.

The band didn’t disappoint. They played 11 out of 12 songs from “Singles,” skipping only “Slap and Tickle.” Anything on that album - from the very lyrically British “Up the Junction” to the c-c-c-catchy “Cool for Cats” - generated more noise than songs such as “Hourglass” and “Footprints.” Sticking mostly with the familiar, they chose not to play a single cut from their most recent album “The Knowledge” from 2017.

Squeeze’s songs endure in part because they wrap memorable, often deceptively cheery pop-friendly earworms around lyrics of loss and pain, seduction and fear - and oh so much imbibing.

Tilbrook kept the patter between songs super brief, save for an introduction to the band during the final song “Black Coffee in Bed.” This meant a tight, efficient 20-song set in less than 90 minutes. (That was three songs fewer than their three concerts in Texas last week.)

Sometimes - as was the case with “Black Coffee in Bed” - the songs even felt a bit sped up.

The two original members of Squeeze - Difford, 64, and Tilbrook, 62 - no longer command the stage with any sense of youthful vigor. Tilbrook only seemed to liven up when he was doing a guitar solo while Difford preferred to blend into the background when he wasn’t singing. (Difford’s best moment was digging out a deep cut “Slaughtered, Gutted and Heartbroken.”)

Difford acknowledged the inveterate passage of time, recalling that the first place they ever performed at in Atlanta was Rose's Cantina, a Tex-Mex dive bar in Midtown back in 1978.

Fortunately, both men sound as good vocally as they did on the LPs they recorded decades ago. And the five-piece backing band behind them injected fresh energy and robustness to many of the tunes. Stephen Large, the keyboardist dressed in a colorful suit and sunglasses like a member of the Cars circa 1984, danced around with both an accordion and near the end, a keytar. And the playful interplay between the two percussionists Simon Hansen and Steven Smith was fascinating to watch during the entire concert.

In the waning moments of the concert, both Difford and Tilbrook gave each sincere verbal shout outs. Difford rightfully called Tilbrook “a genius” and the crowd applauded lustily.

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