Glenn Tilbrook, Blackheath Halls, London
Friday 23 December 2011
Back in 2004 Glenn Tilbrook, his wild hair sticking out like Christopher Lloyd's Doc in Back to the Future, cheerfully tore through a short set of Squeeze classics in support of an awed Fountains of Wayne, the US equivalent of Squeeze.
Tonight, Tilbrook's hair has been radically tamed and he appears less cheery, but that sweet pop voice and his accomplished guitar work are still evident, and this particular set is epic (it's split into two halves with a two-song encore) spanning his five decades of performing. And it's a deeply eccentric performance, full of reinterpreted songs and a giddy array of instrumentation: bongos, a squeezebox, a harmonium, and, most prominently of all, an iPad, which is used as a drum machine. The Woolwich-born singer is ably assisted by percussionist Simon Hanson and multi-instrumentalist Chris McNally.
Tilbrook, Squeeze's chief melody maker (Chris Difford was the smart lyricist who crafted the band's very British vignettes), performs in front of a polite, mostly seated, reasonably mature audience, all waiting, of course, for the Squeeze numbers. However, they're treated, not unreasonably, to a lot of solo material, ranging from the lament "Hostage" to the graceful "You See Me", off 2001's The Incomplete Glenn Tilbrook album. The seated Blackheathians remain unmoved by these pop songs; the sort of tracks which sound not quite good enough to grace Beatles for Sale.
A definite highlight, however, is his bonkers "Binga Bong!", a heady blend of a Eurovision entry and Prefab Sprout, during which the 53-year-old grabs his crotch, thrusts his arms skywards Bee Gees style and lightly spanks his bottom. The cabaret feel continues with a track that compares the merits of David Beckham and Kevin Keegan, and a satirical song, "Rupert", which gently lambasts media magnate Rupert Murdoch.
Tilbrook, who with his new beard looks like an avuncular hobbit, looks merriest when cutting loose Cajun style with his new band, cutting a rug like he's at a Lafayette hoedown on "Best of Times". The Blackheathian audience, however, remain steadfastly unmoved. Only Squeeze songs rouse them, and no amount of fiddling around with quirky instruments can ruin a song as sumptuous as "Up the Junction", with its gorgeous riff. The same applies to "Pulling Mussels from a Shell", "Goodbye Girl", "Tempted" and, best of all, his final number "Take Me, I'm Yours", which is infused here with a feverish Latin beat. And, in the end, you were left wanting more. Namely "Cool for Cats" and "Labelled with Love".
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