I recently saw the UK band Squeeze in concert at the Vic Theatre in Chicago, one of many classic older concert venues in one of the greatest cities in the world. You can always tell it’s a classy place when they spell theater as theatre. Oh, so classy.
When people ask me who I saw in concert at the Vic, rather than Squeeze, I always add “UK band” as a preface to Squeeze. That way, even though they may have no idea who Squeeze is, they know it is a UK band which always sounds a lot hipper and adds some instant credibility.
Truth be told, the concert was about 10 days ago. I know, I know, concert reviews are expected immediately after the show. But why? It’s not like my review would have convinced you to buy a ticket for their next show date in Michigan. So get over it and if you must, pretend I saw them last night. Now, on to the review.
For the uninitiated in Squeeze music, Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook have been having a go at music as Squeeze since the mid-70’s. I became a big fan in the 80’s and have always wanted to see them, so I dragged my wife along who is really a good sport about seeing bands she knows very little about.
As an opening act, Wesley Stace performed on solo acoustic guitar as his John Wesley Harding music persona. He opened with this clever and cute song featured in this clever and cute music video featuring the always clever and cute Janeane Garofalo …
He entertained us for 30 minutes with music and stories. We would gladly have sat through another 30 minutes, except for this visage staring at us the whole time.
theaters theatres for you. Wesley made a quick exit explaining that he had to catch a train to Michigan for their next gig. No sooner was he gone and I had stood and stretched for a short bit, but Squeeze was already taking the stage. Did they have to catch the same train?
Difford and Tilbrook brought along a keyboardist, a couple drummers and a bassist. The video board behind them always featured some interesting imagery.
The first half of their set was a mix of old and new songs, and I was actually anxious to hear some of their more recent songs. However, the mix was quite a bit off, and the bass guitar volume was so high that it drowned out Tilbrook’s vocals which were not loud enough. Although I recognized their older faves, I missed the vocals on the newer songs, which sounded interesting. Here was their setlist …
- Please Be Upstanding
- Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)
- Final Score
- Rough Ride
- Annie Get Your Gun
- Innocence in Paradise
- Cradle to the Grave
- Cool for Cats
- Another Nail in My Heart
- Departure Lounge
- Take Me I’m Yours
- Wicked and Cruel
- Goodbye Girl
- Up the Junction
- If I Didn’t Love You
- Slap and Tickle
- Is That Love (Encore)
- Black Coffee in Bed (Encore)
About halfway through the set on one particular song, I could actually feel my heart being bass-thumped into arrhythmia. Note to bass guitarists everywhere: unless you are the reincarnation of John Entwhistle of The Who, you are to be seen, not felt, and only occasionally heard during a show. I’m guessing the person running the mixing board also experienced heart palpitations as the bass guitar mix was toned down quite a bit after that.
The second half of the set featured a lot of faves played in quick succession. There was little connection with the audience and no stories of any kind. I guess if you want stories, you get less songs and it was over 90 minutes chock full o’ songs. They literally raced through Black Coffee in Bed to close the show. Maybe the train was ready to leave the station?
By admitting this, I’m likely showing my age, but I think I would have enjoyed more of an acoustic set of just Difford & Tilbrook as they had toured a few years back. I think I would have enjoyed their clever and interesting lyrics much more if I could have heard them clearly. However, that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy this show. I did. A highlight for me was “Annie Get Your Gun.” Enjoy …
I felt tinged with a bit of sadness as we exited the Vic and saw the Squeeze tour bus and semi-trailer for their equipment. Wasn’t there an extra seat somewhere for John Wesley Harding?