Gig Review: Squeeze @ The Colston Hall
by Polly Hember

A sold-out Colston Hall always looks pretty impressive. The jam-packed venue was buzzing and exited for post-punk pop legends to take centre stage. With a long-list of classic hits alongside fantastic tracks from their new LP The Knowledge, which dropped the day of their Bristol gig, they didn’t disappoint and gave us an incredible, faultless two-hour show.

Exciting new material was woven throughout an extensive back catalogue of hits in a measured and well-thought out set list that kept energy levels superbly high from start to finish.

The sound design, lights and visuals were more akin to those of an arena show; the projections on screen behind Squeeze were different for each song – ranging from a virtual choir to support ‘Rough Ride’, bittersweet old-fashioned wedding footage behind ‘Open’, to punk nostalgia and CGI psychedelia.

Legendry song-writing duo and backbones of Squeeze Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook were joined by an unbelievably tight band comprised of the effortlessly cool and talented Yolanda Charles on bass, percussionist Steve Smith and drummer Simon Hanson working together to make boppy, funky and fluid rhythms, and “Lord” Stephen Large beautifully handling the keys. Their six-piece harmonies brought a dynamism and vivacity to old songs and showcased their new, catchy material. It is always a delight to see performers having as good a time as you are on stage – the fun and enjoyment was visible across the entire band. Musicians from their support Nine Below Zero came on and off stage throughout the set.

Opening with a new track ‘Please Be Upstanding’, they started on a high; new songs ‘Albatross’ and the choral ‘Rough Ride’ stood out for me, already sounding like pop classics despite only being released just earlier that day. Set against old favourites ‘Cool for Cats’, Cradle to the Grave’, ‘Pulling Mussels’ and ‘Tempted’, all songs were received with enthusiasm and vigour. ‘Goodbye Girl’ in particular was a delight; quirky percussion came from tapping a bottle in from Smith and Hanson.

In a sold-out, seated venue it’s always impressive when music succeeds in getting sitting audience members to dance in the gangways. Very early on, the audience started moving. Everyone was on their feet by the last run of songs, which was where everyone stayed – rejoicing at the opening drum beats of ‘Up the Junction’ which has always been my favourite song combining upbeat new wave pop feel-good guitar with sad reminiscing of an alcoholic. Launching from this bittersweet hit into the melancholic ‘Labelled with Love’ where Nine Below Zero’s charismatic Mark Feltmam joined Squeeze for a phenomenal harmonica solo.

Begging for an encore, the audience received three more tracks. Ending on ‘Cool for Cats’ and ‘Black Coffee in Bed’ with masterful guitar solos from Difford and Tilbrook and heavy brassy, bulshy horns to end on the ultimate high.

The audience was lively and lovely – responding with adoration to a set that cleverly brought people out of their seats and even witnessed one woman get up on stage in the most mellow stage-invasion I’ve ever seen in the middle of ‘Cool for Cats’ where she was quickly and gently ushered back into the jiving crowd.

 

As a younger Squeeze fan, it was great to see a cross-generational audience. I was sitting in front of a blatant Dad-and-daughter combination who sang along to every single track off of their back-catalogue, gesturing to a fantastic childhood spent singing and dancing around the kitchen to Squeeze, Pulp, The Beatles and more New Wave pop (or maybe that was just me!). Whether the audience is in its 60’s like Difford and Tilbrook themselves, or whether it’s populated by new listeners, there is something for everyone in a Squeeze song.

First recording in 1977, parting ways in 1988 to then reunite in 2007. post-punk pop legends, they highlight not only their iconic history of hits, their ability to produce an immensely polished set but their musical creative genius that they continue to produce catchy, enjoyable and relevant new music.

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Image Credit: Rob O'Connor;

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