By Steve Houk livingonmusic.com
If I…if I…if I…didn’t know any better, I would have thought that the Squeeze concert held at the elegant Kennedy Center Concert Hall recently was taking place in 1981 or ’82, at some packed club full of rabid Squeeze fans, given the relatively raucous atmosphere and boistrous singalongs that don’t typically accompany the usual acts that appear in this hallowed hall, like the National Symphony Orchestra or the Bolshoi Ballet.
But no matter what the venue was, the legendary British new wave band definitely made a triumphant return to the nation’s capital on this late summer night, putting aside any concerns that a band that was founded in England way back during the Ford administration would still be able to pick up where they left off. Squeeze brilliantly resurrected that powerfully tight sound and melodic yet danceable vibe that was so popular during their golden years in the 80’s. Despite a couple typical band breakups and the like over four decades, they have largely sustained their popularity because, well, they wrote great songs, and also as evidenced by this performance, have retained their chops when performing them live.
Right from the start, Squeeze — made up of a couple of founding, a couple of longtime, and some more recent members — showed why they really haven’t lost a beat over the last 45 years, bringing their hugely popular songs with those oh-so-fun ear worm hooks to life with a performance that harkened back to the days where they ruled the New Wave neighborhood. Led by their two founders and mainstays Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford, Squeeze brought their best game to nearly every song they played, and the crowd lovingly responded by singing, dancing and smiling big as they undoubtedly remembered where they were when they first heard this or that song. I saw the band twice back in their hey day and this performance rivaled if not surpassed both of those.
From the opening song “Footprints” to FM radio gems like “Pulling Mussels (From A Shell),” “Tempted” and “Hourglass” all the way through to the encores of “Take Me I’m Yours,” “Is That Love” and “Black Coffee In Bed,” the overtly recognizable tunes kept coming, and were sung and played superbly throughout the show. Tilbrook’s range was largely close to where it has always been, as he gloriously reproduced most of the high end vocals that have been the centerpiece of Squeeze’s familiarity since the band began. And his partner Mr. Difford also brought his A game, bouncing off of Tilbrook’s highs with his dynamic lows, further helping to recreate the fabulous sound that attracted so many right from the get go, with albums like their debut record Squeeze in 1978, to Argybargy (1979), Cool For Cats (1980) as well as memorable tunes from the other thirteen records they have recorded.
The rest of the stellar band — including Simon Hanson, Stephen Large, Steve Smith and newest member and bassist Yolanda Charles — worked seamlessly with the two band leaders to bring each coveted song dynamically to life, replicating the terrific songwriting and driving 80’s beats as if you were listening to your records in your dorm room. The music contained perhaps a little improv but were mostly verbatum versions which is what the average fan wants, to hear the songs they know done the way they know them. And Squeeze did just that splendidly.
So on this warm August night right off the banks of the Potomac, Squeeze sailed along the waters of rejuvenated rock and roll spectacularly, bringing along a packed house of deliriously satisfied fans with them on their ride…a glorious musical ride that has lasted 45 years, and still remains on a steady course.