Squeeze, Nine Below Zero: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

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Squeeze

Squeeze

For the visit of the South-East Londoners, GetintothisDavid Hall headed up the junction… of Hope Street and Hardman Street.

Who’s your favourite member of Squeeze?

Okay, maybe it’s not as seminal a question as who’s your favourite Beatle, but you’ve clicked on this review for a reason. So since you’re here, let’s talk.

No, you’re not allowed Jools Holland, for multiple reasons. Gilson Lavis? Leftfield shout, we like it. Glenn Tilbrook; now there’s the obvious choice. Still a keen ear for a melody and a catchy solo, and a fearless voice. But he comes across like a fun vicar, or a local Conservative councillor from Surrey.

There’s really only one correct answer here. If you answered anything other than Chris Difford, you’re wrong. Yes, he looks like he would rather be talking to fellow regulars down the pub than singing in a band. Or loyally but disapprovingly watching his local non-league side. Still, he exudes an assured, no-nonsense attitude.

Anyway, we ask for reasons that we’ll get onto shortly.

It’s no understatement to say that Squeeze are one of the great lost British bands of the past few decades. It’s only recently that their worth has been realised, or at least rediscovered, and to a certain extent the band seem to have done the same.

After an acrimonious split following some fiery years together, Squeeze reformed to release their first new material this century in 2015’s Cradle To The Grave, and followed up with last month’s The Knowledge.

Liverpool Music Week 2017 closing party review

They’ve always revolved around the songwriting partnership of front duo Difford and Tilbrook, which brings us back to our opening question. Are you more of a fan of Tilbrook‘s flights of imagination, or Difford‘s earthbound, poetic lyrics?

At the Phil, Tilbrook‘s guitar fireworks and reaching voice had the ability to carry even the more mundane tracks that the Liverpool crowd failed to recognise. Meanwhile Difford – gravelly voice a couple of octaves down from his sparring partner’s – pumped away at the elbow for his rhythm guitar parts, all stoic manner and detached cool.

There was as ever an impressive lyricism to Squeeze‘s hits in Liverpool, which has always been their trump card. Playing their first gig in the city since their 2009 show with The Pretenders, the everyman romanticism of classics such as Labelled With Love and Up The Junction were as thrilling as ever.

Elsewhere, the rollicking hooks of Another Nail In My Heart and the key-shifting chorus of Annie Get Your Gun were as addictive as ever. The night’s highlight came when Difford approached the microphone and urged the seated crowd, “now would be a good time to get up” before dispatching the timelessly urgent new wave of Cool For Cats, followed by the aforementioned Another Nail In My Heart.

The night was wrapped up by what seemed a relatively minor single in Black Coffee In Bed, where the band brought out members of support act Nine Below Zero – who played brassy, big band rhythm and blues – for an encore.

Black Coffee In Bed certainly felt less notable in their oeuvre if more bombastic than the likes of Pulling Mussels, Take Me I’m Yours or Tempted, all well received in Liverpool. Away from the hits, their newer material seemed to strive for an almost eccentric Englishness, which whilst not at all unpleasant, seemed a bit of a reach at times.

But when the big singles hit home, there was a real buzz about the Phil, and the crowd lapped up every note.

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