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Tuesday 19th November 2019

Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone

“They do it down on Camber Sands…” they do it down in Folkestone. Yes, Squeeze are in town and ‘Pulling Mussels From A Shell’ is just one of many tasty dishes being served up by this much loved but somehow, criminally, critically undervalued group. They’ve had their ups and downs over the years but have continued to make excellent albums, with 2015’s ‘Cradle to the Grave’ and ‘The Knowledge’ two years later, being the latest offerings, demonstrating that the song writing talents of Messrs Difford and Tilbrook remain undiminished. Their songs have been a constant soundtrack to many over the years, the subject matter of these changing from cheeky descriptions of youthful misadventures to more reflective and wry commentary on the vicissitudes of adult life. Having seen the band play live many times over the years they never fail to surprise me with the excellence of their live performances and the collective affection that they generate in their audiences.

They’ve always had a healthy respect for their hit songs and have never indulged in the strange disdain that some acts have towards the more popular parts of their back catalogues, even when they have been promoting new material. It helps of course that they can write and perform classic 3-4-minute songs that stand on their own merits without needing 10-minute solos to paper over the cracks. The current tour was billed as presenting the “Difford & Tilbrook Songbook” and offered the chance to hear a range of songs from across their 40 plus year history, including some less familiar or rarely heard live renditions from their impressive repertoire; hence the opening tracks ‘Footprints’ from 1987’s ‘Babylon & On’ and ‘Big Beng’ from 1985’s ‘Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti’. To be honest, all their songs are so melodic and well crafted that they all have an air of familiarity, even if they haven’t been top of your recent playlist. It was great to hear classic album tracks from (the night’s most heavily featured album) ‘East Side Story’ like ‘In Quintessence’ and ‘Someone Else’s Heart’, as well as ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ alongside the hits from that album (you know them I’m sure). For a superb version of ‘Slap and Tickle’ (with its succinct and timeless advice “never chew a pickle with a bit of slap and tickle”) the songwriters were left alone on the stage and Glenn Tilbrook created a wall of sound as he rocked out the propelling riff while singing (which if you’ve attempted it makes you marvel at his effortless skill in pulling this off). ‘Third Rail’ is a personal favourite with its lovely descending picked guitar figure and superb harmonies. The guitarist’s playing was sublime throughout and hearing the lyrical beauty of his solos on tracks like ‘Another Nail in My Heart’ and ‘Black Coffee in Bed’ was, as ever, a joy.

Chris Difford, aside from providing the lyrics that really set the band apart from any of their contemporaries onwards, with the exception perhaps of Elvis Costello, provided the low harmony that underpins most of the songs and took the lead role memorably on ‘Cool for Cats’, which raised the temperature of the packed Leas Cliff Hall even further (I’ve never seen the venue so jammed with happy people). It’s not exactly the Everly Brothers but the octave harmonies between the two are part of the unique sound of the band. Song after song flashed past, 24 gems, building up to a storming version of ‘Take Me I’m Yours’, which the band has turned into a rocking tour de force of ensemble full tilt mayhem. I’m sure most fans like myself could have selected another set list completely, such is the quality of their songbook.

An extended version of ‘Black Coffee in Bed’ closed the show and left the enthusiastic audience in an emotionally charged and satisfied state. This band just get better as time goes on. Long may they continue.

ISimon Green

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