Photo Geoff Ford. Squeeze, The Difford And Tilbrook Songbook Tour, Sheffield City Hall, October 2019
Squeeze: Lowry Salford Manchester – live review
Photo Geoff Ford. Squeeze, The Difford And Tilbrook Songbook Tour, Sheffield City Hall, October 2019

Salford Lowry Centre
Nov 2019

Squeeze played Salford Lowry on Sunday night as part of their 45th Anniversary Difford & Tilbrook Songbook 2019 tour. Our man went to admire their timeless songwriting nous.

45 years on since their inception in London’s Deptford, Squeeze took to the sold out Salford Lowry stage following a playful and effervescent opening set by Sheffield’s 80’s electronica pioneers Heaven 17.

An altogether different prospect and approach both sonically and production-wise to Martyn Ware’s post Human League project – right from the first note of set opener ‘Footprints’ the giant screen kicked in bringing the Squeeze party brightly to life – cleverly treating us to the band’s road journey footage and the pre-show set up at tonight’s Media City waterfront venue.

The first thing that struck quite markedly was the sound quality, all too often we hear moaning about poor sound quality spoiling shows, so it’s only fair that we mention when it is also good! (sound engineers are sensitive creatures) and tonight it was exceptionally good. In fact the whole production that the band’s principle songwriters have created around this, their 45th anniversary Difford and Tilbrook Songbook 2019 tour, was something to behold.

Taking into account the 7 piece band, the aforementioned sonic quality, the performance quality, the musicianship and the creativity that went into the visual shorts and presentation, there cannot have been a single northern soul that walked back out into the black, autumnal Salford rain that won’t have felt that all the stops had been pulled out to make this 45th anniversary gathering something special.

All that without even mentioning the songs.

Difford and Tilbrook as a writing partnership have enough to draw back on, when they hit on a tune, they certainly hit on a tune. Time will tell if they will be put up there along the great British songwriting duos, for this listener it is without doubt. The kitchen sink drama style lyrics have weathered beautifully, while like a good whisky the melodies have grown ever richer with age.

Live always gives you a slightly different perspective when you have only heard a bands studio recordings and Difford & Tilbrook excelled here individually. The first pleasant surprise is that Tilbrook is an exceptional lead guitarist, not something instantly synonymous with songwriters as they more often than not usually favour rhythm based playing. Not our Glenn, you realise he can noodle with the best of em, but always with melody and never without a reason to exist.

The other thing that becomes apparent quite quickly is the importance of Difford’s uniquely rasping baritone vocal in supporting Tilbrook’s higher range in key melodic parts of tracks. It’s quite frankly brilliant in tone and forms an important part of the bands individual vocal sound.

A mention must be added here about the quality of the extra musicians. Former Dirty Vegas drummer Simon Hanson and Yolanda Charles (bass) with Melvin Duffy (guitar) who only officially joined on 13th August this year. These are top notch players make no mistake and more importantly, have personality! 

You would think some of these guys had been with the band from day dot. A special singling out though must be made for percussionist Steve Smith who brings an almost Talking Heads ‘Stop Making Sense’ era vibe to some of the live renditions, whilst adding fantastic crystal harmonies to Tilbrooks oak aged tonsils.

But what about the fkin tunes mate? y’know.. the songs! I hear you say.. Don’t worry about the tunes, they are there in droves as you would expect and sounding better than ever. We got our Up the Junction, Tempted, Pulling Mussels, Cool For Cats, Is That Love? Labelled With Love to name a few… and tons more besides. Some of them having clever and well thought out (and initially) stripped down new arrangements before dropping fantastically into the backing that we know so well.

For a songbook celebrating 45 years the set choice was a clever blend, including some additions from ‘Cradle to the Grave’ the bands only long playing offering in over 20 years. You know you have had a more than worthwhile trip out when you leave a live venue with more melodies nestling in your head than you can possibly sing or deal with and are jumping giddily from one to the other.. 

Proving to those that know and care enough about the Squeeze catalogue, that Difford and Tilbrook will no doubt in time take that rightful place – shoulder to shoulder alongside the other time served great British songwriting duos.

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