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Concert Reviews:
British duo puts the Squeeze on at The Ark
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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ANN ARBOR -- "It's been awhile," Glenn Tilbrook told the crowd gathered to hear him and fellow Squeeze principal Chris Difford on Sunday night, Nov. 29, at The Ark. "It's been a LONG while."

No exaggeration, that.

Sunday's show marked the first visit by Squeeze in any permutation this century -- accompanying the release of "From the Cradle to the Grave," the British group's first set of new music in 17 years. But this stop on Difford and Tilbrook's The At Odds Couple Tour made up for lost time with a truly special and intimate encounter with the duo's brand of popcraft, a melodic veracity that's often mentioned -- and not unjustly -- in the same breath as Lennon & McCartney.

The two-part, 28-song show fused elements of Unplugged and Storytellers as it trolled through the duo's history both in Squeeze and separately. Playing on a staged designed to look like a small flat, complete with beds, a desk and a typewriter for lyric-writing, Difford and Tilbrook started off in pajamas, sharing a pitcher of orange juice before rolling into the urgent chug of "Take Me I'm Yours" -- a song that would also close the show two hours later because the recording of the first version was botched. They eventually shed the PJs for suits, with the stripped-down song arrangements showcasing the clever joys and sophisticated twists that have been the duo's stock in trade since 1978 and remain intact on new material such as "Beautiful Game," "Everything" and the buoyant "Happy Days."

There was no shortage of Squeeze favorites such as "Cool For Cats," "Black Coffee In Bed," "Annie Get Your Gun," "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)," "Another Nail in My Heart" and more, but some of the night's best moments were less-celebrated tracks like "Some Fantastic Place," "Electric Trains" and Tilbrook's solo treatment of "The Elephant Ride," before which he acknowledged Brian Wilson's influence on the song. Tilbrook also honored a fan's request for "Hope Fell Down," while he and Difford offered a selection of their solo material, too -- the latter with the humorous "Fat As a Fiddle" and the nostalgic "Wrecked" and Tilbrook with "Persephone" and the rockabilly flavored "Chat Line Larry."

The show also featured videos on an old school projection screen positioned to one side of the stage, while one of the duo's crew members walked around the house as The Man in the Golden Cape, allowing fans to ask questions -- mostly song requests along with queries about specific lyrics. And one fan, after asking the duo what new acts they liked, even got Tilbrook to accept a CD of his band.

It was the kind of show Squeeze fans would have killed for back in the late 70s or early 80s, and the Ark crowd, well-versed in the nuances of the duo's songs, was no less enthusiastic about it here in 2015. And Difford and Tilbrook's promise that it will be a shorter while until their return was received as welcome news indeed.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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