Squeeze briskly provided wonderful look back Friday at Foxwoods
Friday night in the sold-out Fox Theater at Foxwoods, U.K. pop band Squeeze artfully stuffed 21 of its singularly tuneful songs into a joyfully aerodynamic 85-minute set. You do the math.
Ours is an age of the abbreviated attention span — whether we like it or not, that applies to older folks as well, including those who grew up in the '80s when Squeeze came to prominence as one of the most literate and crafty acts of the New Wave — and Squeeze is smart enough to know that. It's also true Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, the band's genius-level songwriters and sole original members, have always written with eyes and ears focused on economy.
If indeed the pair ever publish a book about songwriting, it would probably focus on how, within a three-minute period, one should ideally spin a ton of pun-happy and acutely smart, emotional lyrics into a windstorm of melody atop chord charts that boldly go where no one has gone before.
That Difford and Tilbrook are travelling on "The Squeeze Songbook Tour" also implies a comprehensive and representative look back at 15 studio albums comprising over 150 songs — some of which are big hits, many of which are at least familiar to casual listeners, and dozens more "deep tracks" beloved by fans. There was a brisk tempo to the evening's presentation because that's the only way the band could get it all in.
Tilbrook's honey-and-maple voice has aged very well; he had to push to hit a few notes, particularly in the show-closing "Black Coffee in Bed," but overall sang with the nuance and elasticity his melodies demand. He's also a smart and overlooked lead guitarist. Difford, whose froggy baritone provides the distinctive counterpoint on so many tunes, also was on point.
Musically and visually, the show was a feast. The sound was excellent, with all the complex instrumental components audible — and what a band! Bassist Yolanda Charles, drummer Simon Hanson, pedal steel/guitarist Melvin Duffy, percussionist Steve Smith and keyboardist Stephen Large, all of whom provided solid vocal support, were empathetic and fluid throughout.
Dressed smartly in suits and with twin video screens displaying clever "scrapbooky" montages, Squeeze efficiently cruised through the material with Tilbrook frequently counting off the next song before the crescendo of the previous number had died down. But smiles and warmth emanated continually from the stage; there was no sense the band was going through the motions and couldn't wait to get back on the bus.
Rather, there was an aura of wistful pride to the evening — maybe even a bit of a self-reflective "Wow, I guess we sorta did pretty well, didn't we?" spirit that flowed from the bandstand throughout the hall like the comforting embrace from an old friend.
Here's the intimidatingly strong set list: "Footprints"; "Hourglass"; "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)"; "Up the Junction"; "King George Street"; "Third Rail"; "Annie Get Your Gun"; "Someone Else's Heart"; "The Day I Get Home"; "In Quintessence"; "Please Be Upstanding"; "Cool for Cats"; "Cradle to the Grave"; "Slap and Tickle"; "Love's Crashing Waves"; "Tempted"; "Goodbye Girl"; "If I Didn't Love You"; (encores) "Take Me I'm Yours"; "Is That Love"; "Black Coffee in Bed."
There aren't many artists spanning the generations of rock 'n' roll that could trot out something like this.
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