6th December 2016
Blimey. Thirty-six dates in two months; this is someone who is very skint or loves playing. I think it’s the latter – Tilbrook screws his face up with emotion or opens up and lets rip. His story-songs seem close to his heart – as is his guitar, which he clearly loves letting loose. Then again, he does seem to only own one shirt…..
He’s not shy of work; running his own studio, releasing a new Squeeze album last year, touring it and being rude to David Cameron. As Tilbrook puts it: “I said some things. He was prime minister. Now he isn’t. Just saying”. A twinkle lightens his eye. There’s a twinkle quite often, as he plays a song that he’s particularly proud of, as he plays a fine line on the guitar, or as he watches yet another piece of confetti from last night spiral down from the ceiling. Perhaps best of all is when he introduces a music hall song by his, ahem, ancestor, Archibald Tilbrook and persuades us to sing it. “I’ll buy you an ice cream as big as your ‘ed”. Sadly he isn’t shot from a cannon as part of the act.
The act seems to be a mixture of pleasing the crowd and self-indulgence. He kicks off with some of his solo work before peppering the set increasingly with Squeeze hits. He brings someone up from the audience to sing Heard It Through The Grapevine. He drops in some favourite songs – One Day I’ll Fly Away (from his album with 9 Below Zero), The Easybeats’ Friday On My Mind and (nice one, this) The Genitalia of a Fool by the Cornell Hurd band – a Western Swing outfit.
He talks about his last proper job, when he shifted a piano from London to Luton with Chris Difford and wrote Take Me, I’m Yours on the way. The song gives him a chance to show off his guitar skills. After a few more of his solo vignettes, which are good but lacking in the Difford lyricism, he goes back into the Squeeze motherlode for songs like Is That Love, Cradle To The Grave and Another Nail In My Heart. The crowd, a very middle-aged group of lads and ladies, tolerate the solo work but it is clear what they are hear for – every Squeeze song is heard back from the crowd, singing every lyric – songs that have stayed with them for nearly forty years. Wisely, he ups the Squeeze quotient till we are playing Squeeze bingo – what hasn’t he played yet? Pleasingly, he gives the guitar more as well and indulges in some serious showing off of his considerable skills. If only he had a band with him, he could leave them in service of the song and rip off a few more raggedy lines.
At the end of the evening, the audience leaves politely, happy memories massaged and songs sung along with. Roll on next autumn’s Squeeze tour.