POP / On the Road: Work while you whistle: From a hotel in Manchester, surrounded by stars and emotional fans, our man on tour finds his mind turning to Michael Bolton

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The tour's second show finds me in Bristol, at St George's Hall, a beautiful old church that until tonight has held only recitals and poetry readings. I'm probably a safe bet for any venue attempting to wet its beak in the world of rock. The likelihood of Squeeze fans brandishing Uzis and Kalashnikovs is remote.

I suggest to the audience that they disregard the surroundings and feel free to create a pub hubbub in between and even during songs if the fancy takes them, but after the third number (a rendition of the fine Judy Clay and William Bell duet, 'Private Number'), there was enthusiastic applause followed by respectful silence.

Blackmail, as I'm sure you are aware, is a very ugly word. But Otis Redding's 'Sitting on the Dock of the Bay' offers me the ideal opportunity to remind the assembled that I will be reporting on my tour in this column before asking for their co-operation in whistling the end section - an excellent way to loosen things up. I fight hard against feeling soiled by Michael Bolton's recent mauling of this song, but I realise I am just going to have to knuckle down and try to accept him for what he is. (Answers on a postcard please to Glenn Tilbrook's 'What is Michael Bolton?' competition, c/o The Independent Arts Desk.)

Sing myself to a croak by the end of the show and wonder if my voice is going, but the next day it appears to be fine and I'm off up to Birmingham, to the Irish Centre, where the promoter is obviously taking a bath as there seem to be plenty of tickets still available. A chap called Joey Moroney tells me at least 15 times after the show how great he thinks it was. At least one time per pint. His friends lead him away after a while, explaining, as if they needed to, that he's 'had a bit of a drink'.

Then on to the most fantastic venue of the tour so far - the Leeds City Variety Hall, from where they used to broadcast The Good Old Days. During the show I get carried away and find myself demonstrating Rock Poses - from the acceptable (climbing on top of the PA and jumping off while playing), through to the plainly unacceptable (one foot on top of the monitor staring at the audience defiantly while playing). It is on this night that I discover that one can experience the power of rock even if only armed with an acoustic guitar. Another career milestone is reached after the show when I sign the House Book alongside such names as Danny La Rue and Bernard Manning.

More showbiz shenanigans the next night at the Riverside, Newcastle. Going on for an encore, I announce that I'm about to play the latest Squeeze single ('It's Over') from the Some Fantastic Place album (mysteriously overlooked by the Brits), when who should appear by the side of the stage and then stroll on but Vic Reeves, who has been appearing at the City Hall. With no hesitation, we tear into 'Dizzy', which we successfully deconstruct - lack of chord knowledge on my part - and then reduce the crowd to tears with a meaningful 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling'.

Paul, an old schoolmate of mine who has recently moved to Newcastle, is also there with his new love, Becky, who explains to me, as we queue for a drink afterwards, how they heard about the gig. Evidently it was Becky who had printed up the posters, and she thought that Paul would like to come as he'd told her he used to be in Squeeze. It was the first I'd heard of it.

Continues next week. See Gig Guide for dates

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