Squeeze and Heaven 17 at Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre 11.11.19
Monday night in a big old theatre in Bournemouth. A place more suited to comedians, the ballet, the panto or a summer seaside special show. How’s this going to work then? It’s a tall order for Squeeze or special guest support band, Heaven 17, to get the crowd going when security are ready to pounce on any ‘disruptive’ dancing or attempts at standing….both bands manage it though, getting a coordinated rise to feet towards the end of both their sets. Credit due to the two Glenns, Tilbrook and Gregory, for beating these most sedentary of surroundings.
I haven’t seen many bands here considering it’s only five or so miles away. The most inappropriate booking here I was party to was The Stranglers 2006 gig with half the audience seeking to jump around in front of the first row and up the aisles…they never did that during Ken Dodd or Opera Aida. I came to see Squeeze here, with John Cooper Clarke, here in 2017 and that worked, helped by getting front row seats. Other than that, the bands I’ve seen here are limited to Level 42 and Deacon Blue – at Deacon Blue I went and stood at the back and then side which is altogether an easier watch if you want to stand…..and to take a few photos.
My Squeeze Tour
Squeeze are one of those bands that have provided a soundtrack to life, for 40 years of mine anyway. Tonight’s show is billed as the ‘Difford and Tilbrook songbook’ of the last four decades.
The first I picked up on them was with an A&M ‘sampler’ compilation LP called ‘No Wave’, which featured ‘Bang Bang’ and ‘Take Me I’m Yours’, played in tonight’s set. I bought this in 1978 from a tiny record shop called ‘Squeeze Inn’ Ashford Common on the Staines Road West, a couple of shops along from Davro’s Discount Store where Bobby Davro used to work for his Dad, while doing occassional impressions.
I’d never have put them in my list of most favourite bands at any one time, never worn a t-shirt (you don’t see many out) but they’ve always been there for me as a jukebox or radio pick, Top of the Pops fave, a DJ request, an occasional album purchase and from time to time a gig. Always enjoyable, the beautifully British, Difford and Tilbrook combo now have a fabulous collection of material to draw from which they exploited tonight, some set to a backdrop of nostalgic photos from early days, yes with a juvenile Jools Holland.
I am just reading Nick Lowe’s biography in which Chris Difford refers to their Elvis Costello produced album ‘East Side Story’ as being their best. I would go for ‘Some Fantastic Place’ with ‘It’s Over’, ‘Third Rail’ – played tonight – and crowned by the title track. Maybe play them back to back and test that.
The title track of the Some Fantastic Place album: https://youtu.be/iNF5w4pP_Eo
‘Up the Junction’ made a big impression on me. The image created in that song haunted me as a young man – the now avoided horror (I think) of being stuck in a flat with no money, a baby and ‘nappies smelling’ – musical contraception at its finest and most sensitive – it was actually supposed to be the drinking and loss of that scenario which haunted.
The official video of Up the Junction with a young Jools Holland on piano and cigar: https://youtu.be/RQciegmLPAo
First time I saw them wasn’t until 1986 at Birmingham Powerhouse and another early Midlands gig was at Leicester Poly on 3 November 1990. Now have you ever heard of, or even imagined, that there could be a fight at a Squeeze gig? My mate Chris (CMe) managed to get involved in some sort of scuffle during ‘Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)’ or something equally unlikely. While I was at the bar he ended up on the floor surrounded by lads from the student bashing council estate nearby. Years later this notable event has escalated itself in our minds to something akin to the ‘Thriller in Manila’. In truth maybe just a bit of ‘Slap’n’Tickle’.
Between those gigs I was at the 1988 Reading Festival, which they headlined on the Sunday. After three days drinking there with friends I recall my friend Neil (NMu) appearing from the distance, during their set, with a stall closing bargain gallon of cider…just to put the final nails in our coffins (or was that ‘another nail in our heart’?)
As you’ve probably gathered I’m trying to catalogue my gig history here while I can almost remember them, as well as keep track of my later grey haired spurt of enthusiasm for live music. Boscombe O2 was another more recent Squeeze gig in 2012 – with Paul Heaton supporting who I missed most of due to a surprise early start.
Then there are a couple of Glenn Tilbrook solo gigs, at Wimborne Tivoli and this year at Poole Lighthouse (above pic) and a relatively hush hush performance at Glastonbury 2017 in the ‘Green Room’ tent (below) with just Difford and Tilbrook which was exceptional and a privilege. You needed to know a local (eh Glasto Nige).
Tonight we got some of their favourites – King George’s Street – and lot of ours. The extended version of ‘Slap’n’Tickle’ stood out particularly, surprisingly, and how can ‘Up the Junction’ not get a welcome airing.
The gravelly voice of the immaculately dressed Difford on ‘Cool for Cats’ is a another highlight – these boys are well suited and booted tonight – I’m doing the shoe gazing. Well supported also with attention grabbing percussion plus the drums and bass, with two keyboards to call on at times or a bonus guitar. Great band with the main keyboard player bursting to get out from behind his gear, which he’s allowed to late on with his mobile shoulder slung keyboard.
Full set list, littered with gems: https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/squeeze/2019/pavilion-theatre-bournemouth-england-39d450f.html
After a pause, and some uncertainty, like a real encore, they return for ‘Take me I’m Yours’ and ‘Black Coffee in Bed’.
A half hour support slot is not enough for Heaven 17 to really let loose but they had everyone up on their feet by the end for ‘Temptation’. Frontman Glenn Gregory is a master, and he looks like he’s just dying to get another hour with the audience.
I saw them twice on their last tour, Bristol and Bournemouth O2 Academies, and they have some good stories and reflections on being part of the 80s electronic music boom, including Martin Ware’s early Human League years.
I went to the soundcheck in Bristol (cheers Dave) and they’re friendly guys who like a chat on stage or off.
They are one of those bands where you can forget how many chart hits they had. This makes it work as a support act: Play to win; Come Live With Me; Fascist Groove Thing for example. Initially I thought it was an odd fit but the era is right I guess. Unlike Heaven 17 though Squeeze have continued to record new material. Heaven 17 focus on the early 80s hits.
Their backing singers, who come to the fore at times, are fabulous.