Squeeze, Nine Below Zero: Liverpool Philharmonic

By Alan Parry
Wed 08 November, 2017

With Squeeze expertly showing us how it’s done, Alan Parry finds out what grown ups do on a night out. 

So, this is what grown ups do on a night out!

Squeeze were supported by veteran blues outfit Nine Below Zero and together they gave a thoroughly enjoyable performance to a packed out Philharmonic Hall.

It is important to mention the special guests, for not only did they add to the experience, but the line-ups were interchangeable all night long.

Squeeze‘s star man Glenn Tilbrook even joined his friends and recent collaborators on stage to perform Chat Line Larry, a number composed by him and guitarist Dennis Greaves. This was the highlight from their short set which also included 1981’s Don’t Point Your Finger At The Guitar Man which charged like a runaway train and whet the audience’s appetite for what was still to come.

Later in the night, Nine Below Zero return the favour, with various members joining Squeeze throughout the night.

Their brass section performed on a number of tracks as a sort of mini-set, starting with 1987’s Hourglass and culminating with Rough Ride . Together they create a wall of sound. Particularly on the latter, where they juxtapose an operatic vocal, a children’s choir and a funky disco guitar riff. And still the political commentary continues, ‘Austerity, is that all you have to give to me?‘ the band ask. There is no disguising which side of the fence they lie on. This is pop music with a message, and will surely please both the loyal fan base and those only now discovering the band.

Furthermore, Labelled With Love, which arguably received the biggest cheer of the night, was enhanced by the harmonica playing of guest Mark Feltham, whose solo towards the end, before we go around again for one last chorus adds a real authenticity to the country roots of this vignette.

Finally, as Feltham exits and the band is joined on stage by guitarist Dennis Greaves, whose guitar work, combined with a cacophony of percussion and keyboards, on Slap and Tickle serves to bring about a crescendo to end the night’s events.

Squeeze‘s entire set would be a lesson in “how it’s done” even had it not been for the guests from Nine Below Zero.

Opening with tongue-in-cheek number Please Be Upstanding from their new album, The Knowledge was perhaps unfamiliar to many in attendance, but the band’s habitual humour already had the crowd on their feet. In this case, with a fun song about erectile dysfunction.

Much of their newer material would slot seamlessly into their back catalogue. Take Albatross. Fittingly, the track appears to be about recapturing youth through collecting vinyl records, a once dying avocation and Tilbrook sings about how records can transport the poet-speaker, and more broadly, almost everybody in attendance ‘back through the years’. Cradle To The Grave, meanwhile, feels as familiar as some of the hits due to it’s use in the BBC sitcom of the same name,  and the crowd sings along freely.

This is compounded as Chris Difford asks the audience to stand as one for performances of Cool For Cats and Another Nail In My Heart and they duly oblige. Again people are dancing in the aisles, but the band know when to hold back. They are experts at pacing themselves, knowing precisely when to raise the pace and when to show restraint and that comes in the form of the Bowie-esque acoustic number Departure Lounge, complete with a psychedelic light show, I can’t have been the only one in the room expecting the Mysterons.

I don’t recall ever being at a gig where everybody there was on the same wavelength. Much of the crowd has grown up watching and listening to the band, and there was an almost tangible electricity in the air, the like of which I have never experienced before.

Tilbrook, Chris Difford and company certainly speak directly to their audience, and almost every lyric feels like it could have been lived by any member of the crowd. That their new material continues with this tradition, and has grown with them, speaking to their current experiences, only underlines their genius.