Review: Squeeze at The HexagonBy Alan Manicom
November 26, 2012
Saturday, November 24
Innovative as ever, Squeeze found a new way of pleasing their fans at The Hexagon on Saturday.
Within minutes of them finishing and coming off stage, a recording of the concert was made available to buy for £15.
The group then sat in their Pop Up Shop in the foyer, signing the sleeves of their three-CD package, which also included an EP of their first new studio recordings in 15 years.
The group had arrived on stage earlier to a projected cartoon Bruce Forsyth introducing each band member.
Lead singer and guitarist Glenn Tilbrook jokingly name-checked 'Reading' several times between songs to prove to the audience they would be buying what they were listening to.
Starting with Bang Bang, the commercially unsuccessful second single about sulphate abuse off their 1978 self-titled debut album, Tilbrook acknowledged it was 'a controversial opening number'.
But then Squeeze never have been a band to go for the easy option.
Part of their endearing charm since forming in Deptford, London, in 1974, has been the way they have avoided following trends.
Never stereotypical, they have always looked to be original while sticking to their own self-effacing, humorously cheeky, unique style.
Their eclectic 99-minute set was augmented with a series of videos carefully matched to each song.
Images of early arcade computer games - Pong, Space Invaders, Galaxian and Pac-Man - were a clever choice for the backdrop to Cool For Cats. The music and visuals instantly transported me back to my local pub in the 70s.
Cartoons of the band accompanied the kitchen-sink drama classic Up The Junction, while there was old footage of Squeeze's 1977 Silver Jubilee gig in the street, which included a very youthful shot of former band member Jools Holland.
Another song had a video of friends and relatives, I presume, in the Pelton Arms, Greenwich, miming perfectly in synch to what the band were doing on stage.
The most poignant backdrop of all, though, was the simplest - vapour trails across the sky as Tilbrook sang Some Fantastic Place, the hauntingly beautiful tribute to his first girlfriend Maxine, who died after contracting leukaemia.
The words to this, as with nearly all Squeeze's songs, were written by lyricist Chris Difford, with Tilbrook providing the music.
The pair were hailed as heirs to Lennon and McCartney's throne during the peak of Squeeze's popularity in the early 1980s.
And although that was a claim that hindered rather than helped them, I still find it staggering that Difford and Tilbrook have never enjoyed the commercial success and recognition their undoubted talents deserve.
They have always been their own men and on Saturday they had the courage to showcase relatively unknown tracks from their individual albums, even though there was a genuine risk of losing the audience.
Tilbrook's Al Green-inspired Still was an excellent choice, as was Difford's country and western song Cowboys Are My Weakness, about which he remarked: "That's a song I wrote for KD Lang, but she didn't like it so I gave it to Dolly Parton, but she didn't like it either . . . but Glenn Tilbrook likes it so it's in our set."
You could tell the pair were genuinely enjoying being back together again on stage.
And anyway, whenever the intensity dropped a little, there was always a crowd favourite to get things rocking again - Annie Get Your Gun, Labelled With Love, Tempted, Another Nail In My Heart and my own favourite, Pulling Mussels (From The Shell), which judging by the reaction around me in the standing section was a highlight for the audience too.
I'd have loved to have heard Cold Shoulder or Points Of View, but something good was always going to be left out when their back catalogue runs to more than 200 songs and contains so many gems.
They ended with Goodbye Girl, which featured the strangest looking instrument I've ever seen, sort of a cross between a small hoover and a bagpipe. I wish I'd asked one of the band what it was called when I got my CD signed. Did anyone else?
All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable party with one of the most talented and under-rated bands this country has produced.
If I've made you wish you were at The Hexagon on Saturday, or you were there and want to relive it, you can still get the CDs of the Reading concert online at squeeze.mybigcommerce.com.
I've a feeling my copy is going to be on in my car for a while.