What does a somewhat-recently reunited band with a pretty good live album on their hands do after several live tours and a prime spot on the bill at the Coachella Music Festival? It’s not a question you’d typically find yourself asking, so you have to give it up to U.K. pop/rock legends Squeeze for not answering the question traditionally at last night’s show at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ.
If you’ve been to a Squeeze concert since Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook reunited in 2007, you know the scene: a packed audience of pre-Generation X record collectors (with the odd, eager young fan) and slightly graying couples who pogo to “Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)” just as fervently as they did in 1980. Starry-eyed guys clutch their vinyl copies of East Side Story and girls drink beer while nestling into their partners’ shoulders lovingly. It’s a peculiar but ultimately happy scene befitting one of the more chronically underrated bands of the MTV generation.
And while that kind of a scene has, in the past, lent itself to a pleasant show running through the band’s greatest semi-hits (“Tempted,” “Black Coffee in Bed,” “Cool for Cats”), the continuously energetic band, set to start recording their first new album in nearly 15 years next month, seems just as interested in pulling surprises from their 22-song bag of tricks. The typical greatest hits were relegated to the tail end of the show, and were preceded by a diverse, often surprising offering of early album cuts and B-sides. Tunes like “In Quintessence” and “Heaven” from East Side Story, “Tough Love” from 1987’s Babylon and On and late-’80s B-side “Who’s That” – a tune Tilbrook introduced as one he’d like to hear Aretha Franklin sing – were as well-rehearsed as “Up the Junction,” “Hourglass” and “Another Nail in My Heart.”
Just as importantly, it’s a delight to see a band that’s earned their keep with old song after old song still enjoying themselves. The grin never left Tilbrook’s newly-bearded face as he engaged in guitar solos, postured with Difford and bassist John Bentley and took to the keyboards for encore number “Up the Junction.” Bespectacled lyricist Difford lent his distinctive lead vocals to “Cool for Cats” and “Heaven,” from East Side Story. The band’s newer members, keyboardist Stephen Large and drummer Simon Hanson, were in top form, with Hanson slamming snares and dramatically tossing stick after stick mid-set.
Opening act The English Beat – consisting of original member Dave Wakeling and a cast of unnamed sidemen – provided a solid if short seven song set, including hits “Mirror in the Bathroom” and “Save It for Later” plus covers of The Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There” and “Tenderness,” the catchy single from Wakeling’s post-Beat band General Public. Local band River City Extension also provided a spirited set to kick the night off, with Tilbrook sitting in on guitar during the set’s closer.
Set Lists: Squeeze with The English Beat, Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank, NJ – 4/25/2012
The English Beat
I’ll Take You There (Staple Singers cover)
The Tears of a Clown (The Miracles cover)
Tenderness (General Public cover)
Ranking Full Stop
Mirror in the Bathroom
Save It for Later
Take Me I’m Yours
If I Didn’t Love You
Is That Love
Points of View
Cool for Cats
Up the Junction
Another Nail in My Heart
Annie Get Your Gun
Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)
Slap and Tickle
Black Coffee in Bed