In celebration of the superb back catalogue that Messrs Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford have amassed over their forty five years as the ever present backbone of Squeeze the pair came to the South-East coast to entertain a packed out Leas Cliff Hall. 'The Difford And Tilbrook Songbook 2019' tour sees them on great form, playing with a full, extremely accomplished, band and very special guests, Heaven 17. Poignantly, as we fast approach the general election and the festive period, the tour is supporting the UK's biggest food bank charity The Trussel Trust. (Donations at Glenn Tilbrook's solo gigs have exceeded 3.5 tonnes since they began in 2018).
With a wealth of songs to play and an enthusiastic crowd itching to hear them it was no wonder that the evening started a little earlier than most so that Heaven 17 could begin the night with a chic slice of Electronic nostalgia. Martyn Ware, attired in a neon green shirt, shimmering suit and sporting his customary slicked back hair and Glenn Gregory, dressed head to toe in black and having long since lost his golden locks, played out a succinct set of '80's floor fillers to the delight of the audience. In the eight track set they went from, 'Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry' into a politically charged, '(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang' and onto the biggest surprise of the night, 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling'. The "Heaven 17 version of The Human League's version" as Gregory put it, got the crowd singing along and helped to pump up the atmosphere. Ware and Gregory, aided by Kelly and Rachel on backing vocals, then delivered their biggest song; their number two in charts from 1983, 'Temptation'. Rather aptly, giving a further nod back to the hedonistic '80's, it was given an extended remix, with Kelly in particular hitting the high notes.
Squeeze took to the Leas Cliff stage equally, if not even more, elegantly dressed than their predecessors. Difford and Tilbrook were both in smart suits, Chris wearing some very snazzy two-tone spectator brogues that wouldn't have been out of place in The Great Gatsby.(Forty five years in he's obviously no longer the cheeky chappy he once was but now more of a regal cross between Martin Scorsese and Ronnie Barker) They were quickly about their work with two tracks from '87's 'Babylon And On', 'Footprints' and 'Hourglass' sandwiching 85's 'Big Beng'.
From there on in it just built and built. A sublime ''Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)' segued seamlessly into a quite brilliant, 'Up The Junction'. Both songs showcased the outstanding quality of the pairings song writing; the wry wit, the social commentary and the observational lyrics were matched to a note perfect soundtrack. It was difficult to pick out an overall highlight as the setlist was so strong. Even some of the lesser known, or never performed before this tour songs, like 'King George Street' or 'The Day I Get Home' sounded great and stood up well.
The second half of a mammoth, twenty four track, set continued to ramp up the atmosphere as Chris and Glenn, complete with two percussionists Steve Smith and Simon Hudson, bassist Yolanda Charles, keyboard player Stephen Large and slide guitarist Melvin Duffy gave virtuoso performances. Tilbrook's guitar work, particularly on 'Slap And Tickle' and 'Black Coffee In Bed', were nothing short of revelatory and Yolanda's ability to carry on playing unperturbed as a stage hand sorted out a potential wardrobe malfunction was further testament to her undoubted professionalism.
A very melodic 'In Quintessence' saw both gentlemen in fine voice, as did the more melancholic lyrical genius of 'Labelled With Love' and 'Tempted' before Difford took up his lead vocal duties on another Squeeze classic and clear crowd favourite, 'Cool For Cats'. Chris said later on "I have to pinch myself on stage when I get swallowed up in all these beautiful songs, I'm completely bruised under this suit from being pinched so much by myself, I kind of enjoy it in a way, it's like self abuse, but it's love, love beyond love ladies and gentleman" as he went on to play a loving and genuine tribute to his partner Glenn Tilbrook.
A rousing 'Goodbye Girl' and reflective, 'Annie Get Your Gun' saw out the main set before Squeeze returned to rapturous applause to perform 'Take Me I'm Yours' and an extended, and fabulously enhanced, 'Black Coffee' before they all took a well deserved bow at the end of an extraordinary night watching two extraordinary song writers and performers. A triumph indeed.