A double bill featuring the English Beat and Squeeze drew a sizable audience to the Ogden Theatre on Sunday night — remarkable, given that it was a Sunday and the end of a busy music week in Denver. The concert industry may be weak in other parts of the country, but, from this turnout at least, Denver music fans will support bands they like, whatever the economy.
Arriving at the Ogden from The UMS just as the English Beat left the stage, loud applause for an encore was a pretty strong indication the band still puts on an excellent show and that I’d missed a great performance. Having seen the band twice in their heyday, I don’t doubt it.
Squeeze is slowly and belatedly earning the respect in the U.S. that they’ve had for 30 years in the U.K. There, the band’s songwriters, Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, are considered on par with Ray Davies and Elvis Costello. The often hyperbolic U.K. music press once dubbed the pair “the new Lennon and McCartney,” a curse as well as a blessing.
Never mind the Beatles, Difford’s storytelling, filled with clever wordplay, and, above all, Tilbrook’s melodies are what set the band apart from most late ’70s/early ’80s acts. In an era of gimmicky bands loaded with angst, banks of synthesizers, odd hair or bizarre outfits, all Squeeze had were sunny, hook filled pop songs. Common enough in popular music these days, but pretty damn rare in the wake of bands like the Clash and New Order.
Touring for the first time since 2007, Difford and Tilbrook were joined this time by former band bassist John Bentley, as well as Stephen Large (keyboards) and Simon Hanson on drums. All five provided vocals and although a vocal band, the musicianship was above average on all counts.
At age 52 and still in fine honey-voice, Tilbrook was a joy to hear. The timbre produced by the blending of his voice with Difford’s baritone on songs like “Another Nail In My Heart” is yet another of the bands many charms.
Did the band play a typical nostalgia show by trotting out hit after hit? Nope, but it was a show filled with one great song after another: songs from the Jools Holland years, “Cool for Cats,” “Goodbye Girl” and “Slap and Tickle” mixed with Squeeze’s MTV hits like “Hourglass” and “Tempted.”
Like any band with a huge catalog, Squeeze could have played twice as long as their roughly 75- minute set and there would still be dozens of songs people wanted to hear. Still, it would have been nice to hear “This Summer” or “Walk Away” from their woefully ignored 1995 release, “Ridiculous.”
It’s too bad fans of current Britpop weren’t at the show, since Squeeze clearly inspired a lot of contemporary U.K. bands (Supergrass, Kasabian). Maybe it was just a long overdue victory lap tour, but a band with Squeeze’s credentials deserve it.
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Mike Long is a Longmont-based writer and comedian and a regular contributor to Reverb.