I’ve said it before, but I’m pleased to see 1991 Squeeze LP Play getting some kudos again all these years on.
And it seemed fitting that Glenn Tilbrook started off his solo show at Preston’s 53 Degrees with one of its stand-outs, The Day I Get Home.
While Play was largely conceived in LA, I equate it with the short winter days when I first heard it, so a lethargic Sunday evening in early December fitted perfectly.
The fact that Glenn, still suffering a little man-flu after a gruelling schedule that started stateside and just kept going, is not so far off concluding the current leg of a ‘never-ending’ tour probably added to the laid-back vibe.
These acoustic engagements can be a little nervy, not least when part of the crowd are hoping to just hear a greatest hits package.
But while not so many seemed to know his opener, Glenn soon engaged his seated audience with that fantastic vocal and blistering fretwork.
He started with an appreication of his support, adopted New Yorker Leslie Mendelson, who charmed the assembled with her rather intimate yet somewhat powerful set, with more than a hint of Carole King, to name but one influence.
Tentatively stood behind her keyboard, she rightly earned a warm reception on a mild Lancashire night for the time of year, transporting us away with the pensive Coney Island and much more besides.
Glenn also soon warmed to his task, telling us a tale about Beach Boy Dennis Wilson advising Squeeze not to split back in 1982, before launching into a song built around that encounter, Dennis.
There are a lot of name songs on his stripped-down new album, Happy Ending, which was available exclusively in CD form on the night, the artist selling copies at the back of the hall after his set.
But next up was a run-through Squeeze’s Take Me I’m Yours and a crowd sing-along to The Best of Times from his 2009 LP Pandemonium Ensues with The Fluffers, albeit with Glenn teaching us the chorus first.
The audience reverentially joined in as he moved on to 1981’s Labelled with Love. And if anyone had any doubt as to the wealth of Glenn’s solo work in comparison to his better-known material, next offering Ray further reminded us we were in the company of a true song-writing great.
While Glenn can clearly write, he was quick to applaud his long-time collaborator too, asking the audience to give Chris Difford a round of applause (also nodding back to him on the stage, despite his absence!), before launching into another Play high-point, The Truth.
That involved an extended guitar part, as was often the case on the night, this gathering left in no doubt as to Glenn’s mastery in that department.
Then there was the Beatle-esque Woman’s World from 1982 Squeeze landmark East Side Story, and Pandemonium Ensues’ Through the Net, dedicated by this 56-year-old father of four to ‘kids, eh!’
He briefly spoke about The Co-Operative, his project with Nine Below Zero, trying out Ter-Wit Ter-Woo, written with Dennis Greaves, and that was followed by Squeeze classics Up the Junction and Goodbye Girl.
Pretty soon, he’d switched to electric guitar for Slap and Tickle, rather alarmingly 35 years after its release, then The Co-Operative’s Chat Line Larry, while Black Coffee In Bed took me back to further vivid early ‘80s memories.
A more mellow Still was next, also from Pandemonium Ensues, and there was no way he was giving up that electric guitar now, the hits and near misses keeping coming.
From Is That Love? (its opening line still sending tingles down this blogger’s spine) to a rockier run through Untouchable from 2004’s Transatlantic Ping Pong, I was in awe.
Two further rocking numbers I couldn’t identify followed, the latter with a Chuck Berry feel, before he played us out with a rather wistful but no less powerful for it Tempted.
As Glenn returned, he apologised for that lingering cold affecting his voice, but there was no real need. It sounded pretty good to us all the same.
He then carried on where he left off, with the fantastic Another Nail In My Heart and a show-stopping Pulling Mussels (From the Shell).
Yet for me it was his other encore that became the earworm, a short and snappy music hall tribute from the new platter, Ice Cream, dedicated to his Grandad, who apparently sang it to this musical legend in the making as he rocked him on his knee. And it didn’t take much coaching before we were singing “I’ll buy you an ice cream as big as your ‘ead’ too.
While Glenn might not have been – by his own admission – at his best, he wasn’t so far off. And we at least got our fix of GT before his next happy return to the North-West, hopefully with The Fluffers or perhaps even Squeeze in tow.
* For a recent writewyattuk interview with Glenn Tilbrook and a further link to a previous Squeeze appreciation, click here.
* For all the latest news from Glenn, including forthcoming dates, head to his official website here.
* And for more information, dates and releases featuring Leslie Mendelson, try this link.