Squeeze and Paul Heaton
10 December 2012
Tunnel, traffic, both car parks near the venue full and an early stage time for Paul Heaton made this a hectic start to what would prove a memorable evening.
Itâs slightly uncomfortable watching people filing into their seats as an artist of the stature of Heaton is getting into full swing. However, for those of us who suffered through the musical desert that was the mid-’80s, Paul Heaton will forever have a place in our hearts for leading an assault on a processed-pop packed chart with his whimsical yet bitingly political lyrics in the Housemartins.
He gave voice to the many who felt increasingly alienated in the consumer-driven, Thatcher revolution that was engulfing us before expanding musically in The Beautiful South and with his solo career since 2007.
Heatonâs presence on the bill is also an inspired booking as he sits firmly in the proud British tradition of imaginative song-writing, dating back to the Kinks, which also includes tonightâs headliners. Itâs a style that combines observation and humour to document and celebrate the mundane realities of the lives of most people.
Paul Heaton displays no pretensions and tonight he takes the stage with the minimum of fuss to kick off with âWelcome to the Southâ. Instantly at ease, Heaton led us through an all-too-brief set that combines Beautiful South tracks âOl Red Eyes is Backâ and âDumbâ, Housemartins classics âBuildâ and âMe and the Farmerâ with newer songs including the stand-out âIâve Got Some Dancing To Doâ.He also manages to liven up a pretty sedate crowd as the songs are interspersed with his trademark banter. The lyrics, which Heaton once described as âone long whinge but with jokesâ are delivered in a voice that has lost none of its unique power and this is perfectly showcased in the final song, delivered acapella alongside his excellent band, âCaravan of Loveâ.
My ponderings as to how Squeeze would take the stage had not included the possibility of them being called on individually by a cartoon backdrop of Bruce Forsyth but it certainly worked. They kicked off with their second single âBang Bangâ followed by 1982âs âAnnie Get Your Gunâ, âWithout You Hereâ and the irresistible âSlap and Tickleâ instantly displaying the versatility of Difford and Tilbrook, one of the strongest, and most enduring, song-writing duos in rock history.
Two new songs follow, âTommyâ and âTop of the Formâ dedicated to teachers, before âNo Place Like Homeâ is played with the backdrop screen showing old footage of Liverpool. âStillâ leads into âIs That Loveâ where the band perform while videos of their younger selves playing a gig from long ago is projected onto the back drop.
An acoustic section sees the delivery of âLabelled with Loveâ and âTake Me Iâm Yoursâ and demonstrates the true prowess of this line-up with Stephen Large on accordion, drummer Simon Hanson and bassist John Bentley all pulling together to create an outstanding unplugged vibe.
The Chris Difford solo track âCowboys are my Weaknessâ precedes another new song in âFrom the Cradle to the Graveâ. From the new tracks played tonight, it seems that Difford and Tilbrook have lost none of their creative spark and vitality and it is to be hoped that 2013 will deliver the long-awaited new album.
Crowd favourite âBlack Coffee in Bedâ sees some enthusiastic punters lose self-control and actually attempt to dance to the music however this is swiftly dealt with by the venue security with as much charm and subtlety as can be conveyed by a stare and hand gesture. I do understand why Squeeze would play this venue as every night on the tour is recorded for immediate sale and the acoustics will be the best in Liverpool. However, I fail to see why someone who wants to dance by the speakers so they are not blocking anyoneâs view should be threatened with ejection and I can think of a few gigs over the years that may have given the security a little more to worry about. Still, the evening moves towards a climax and the weight of public opinion combined with the band playing âTemptedâ finally sees the venue on their feet before possibly the most recognisable drum intro ever leads us into the classic âUp the Junctionâ and the set closer of âPulling Mussels (From a Shell)â.
Encores of âCool For Catsâ and âAnother Nail in My Heartâ lead into the finale of âGoodbye Girlâ, played acoustically with head-set microphones that enabled the band to wander round the auditorium before exiting into the foyer where they would spend a good deal of time at their âpop-up shopâ signing merchandise and recordings of the evenings show.
Back out into the freezing Liverpool air to reflect on a golden British period from which Squeeze, alongside many other punk, ska, and rock bands emerged to inspire in a whole generation a love of musical originality that continues to this day, as we value the old bands and anticipate the new.
Pictures courtesy of David from packet of three.com and please follow the link to find all things Squeeze.
All words by Dave Jennings. You can read more from Dave on LTW here.