Squeeze and Paul Heaton: Liverpool – live review

Squeeze and Paul Heaton
Liverpool Philharmonic
10 December 2012

Live review

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.

It’s 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.

Heaton’s 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 tonight’s headliners. It’s 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 ‘Welcome to the South’. Instantly at ease, Heaton led us through an all-too-brief set that combines Beautiful South tracks ‘Ol Red Eyes is Back’ and ‘Dumb’, Housemartins classics ‘Build’ and ‘Me and the Farmer’ with newer songs including the stand-out ‘I’ve Got Some Dancing To Do’.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 ‘one long whinge but with jokes’ 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, ‘Caravan of Love’.

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 ‘Bang Bang’ followed by 1982’s ‘Annie Get Your Gun’, ‘Without You Here’ and the irresistible ‘Slap and Tickle’ 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, ‘Tommy’ and ‘Top of the Form’ dedicated to teachers, before ‘No Place Like Home’ is played with the backdrop screen showing old footage of Liverpool. ‘Still’ leads into ‘Is That Love’ 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 ‘Labelled with Love’ and ‘Take Me I’m Yours’ 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 ‘Cowboys are my Weakness’ precedes another new song in ‘From the Cradle to the Grave’. 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 ‘Black Coffee in Bed’ 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 anyone’s 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 ‘Tempted’ finally sees the venue on their feet before possibly the most recognisable drum intro ever leads us into the classic ‘Up the Junction’ and the set closer of ‘Pulling Mussels (From a Shell)’.

Encores of ‘Cool For Cats’ and ‘Another Nail in My Heart’ lead into the finale of ‘Goodbye Girl’, 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 ‘pop-up shop’ 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.

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