Difford and Tilbrook of Squeeze in Anaheim

by George A. Paul

Photos by Ida Miller

DiffordAndTilbrook-1Over the course of a 30-year career that dates back to the mid-1970s, Squeeze has often been called Beatlesque thanks to the exquisite songcraft of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook. And when the pair appeared onstage Nov. 13 at City National Grove of Anaheim, The Fab Four’s “A Day in the Life” immediately came to mind.

Injecting some theatricality into their live proceedings, the Brits woke up, got out their beds and drank cups of juice at a table before opening the 100-minute concert with debut UK top 20 single “Take Me I’m Yours” initially clad in pajamas.

While this show wasn’t actually a musical, the duo’s first US acoustic tour in more than two decades (which launched in Orange County, Calif.) is called “The At Odds Couple: A Brand New Production.” There were even two audience Q&A segments.

Last Friday also marked the release of a fine new Squeeze studio album, “Cradle to the Grave” on Virgin/EMI Records. It was co-produced by past collaborator Laurie Latham, whose credits include Echo & the Bunnymen, Ray Davies and The Stranglers. Eighties-era Squeeze bassist John Bentley contributes to several tracks.

The last Squeeze studio effort was 1998’s “Domino.” Difford and Tilbrook embarked on solo careers, but reunited in ’07 and did several tours before finally recording fresh material together again.

ChrisDifford-1Some lyrical inspiration came from childhood friend Danny Baker, an NME writer/DJ/TV presenter. His autobiography was made into a comedy/drama miniseries (also titled “Cradle to the Grave”). It aired this past September on BBC2. Many of the new tracks were used in the film.

Half of the 23-song Anaheim set was filled with British hits from 1982 album “Singles – 45’s and Under,” the lone platinum seller by Squeeze in America. Archival band photos and articles flashed on a backdrop as the duo did a sprightly “Cool for Cats” while Tilbrook added electric sitar guitar sounds. Then he did a soulful “Black Coffee in Bed” alone at the keyboards. Fans dutifully filled in backing vocals from the record.

Although the “Cradle” tunes often feature big female-centric harmonies and orchestrations, five selections performed here still sounded great in a stripped down format. Among those, the alluring “Beautiful Game” was an early highlight; the same held true for upbeat, poppy new single “Happy Days” and buoyant “Only 15” – both rife with sharp lyrics about adolescence.

Difford primarily stuck to acoustic guitar and provided the occasional anecdote. Tilbrook moved between various instruments, impressed with tasty electric guitar solos throughout the night (“Is That Love,” “Pulling Mussels from the Shell”) and basically let the music do the talking. Both musicians took turns performing three songs from their solo releases. Difford fared best with the dark-hued “Wrecked,” a humorous “Fat as a Fiddle” and “Cowboys Are My Weakness.” Longtime fans probably would have preferred to hear more deep Squeeze cuts instead.

Still, they did get winsome takes on “Electric Trains” (off 1995’s underrated “Ridiculous”) and the romantic “Some Fantastic Place.” The first set ended with slice-of-life gem “Up the Junction.”

Standouts during the second half included a high energy “Annie Get Your Gun” and the soulful “Tempted” (where fans sang along loudly and a few danced near the stage). For the encores, Difford and Tilbrook did a strident “Another Nail for My Heart” and “Goodbye Girl.”

All told, a welcome return.

Remaining “At Odds Couple” Tour dates:

Nov. 17 Canyon Club, Agoura Hills, CA
Nov. 18-19 City Winery, Napa, CA
Nov. 20-21 Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA
Nov. 24-25 Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis, MN
Nov. 27-28 Park West, Chicago, IL
Nov. 29 The Ark, Ann Arbor, MI
Dec. 1-2 Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland, OH
Dec. 4 The Rex Theater, Pittsburgh, PA
Dec. 5 Scottish Rite, Collingwood, NJ
Dec. 6 Birchmere, Alexandria, VA
Dec. 7 Count Basie, Red Bank, NJ
Dec. 9 Tarrytown Music Hall, Tarrytown, NY
Dec. 10 The Wilbur, Boston, MA
Dec. 11 The Ridegefield Playhouse, Ridgefield, CT
Dec. 12 Paramount Theater, Huntington, NY
Dec. 13 Tarrytown Music Hall, Tarrytown, NY
Dec. 14 Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown, NJ
Dec. 16 Troy Music Hall, Troy, NY
Dec. 17-18 PlayStation Theater, New York, NY

For more info, visit www.squeezeofficial.com

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