7th October 2017, Birmingham Symphony Hall
It wouldn't seem strange for anyone to wish that every band was like Squeeze. They write an album that is guaranteed to contain songs that showcase their signature sound, get out on tour to promote it, and then pretty soon are writing another new album.
In short, they are reliable. A staple of British music.
And yet, with their latest album 'The Knowledge' (due to be released 13th October 2017) it feels as if something is missing. Perhaps Squeeze have begun to take their reputation for reliability for granted? Or perhaps the album was a little rushed? After all, it has only been two years since their previous offering (2015's stellar 'From The Cradle To The Grave', their highest-charting album to date) whereas there was a gap of five years between that and 2010's 'Spot The Difference'. Whatever the reason, it was obvious that the tracks from 'The Knowledge' that the band performed last night were a little bland, and in particular lack the amusing story-telling lyrics that have become a big part of Squeeze's music over the last forty years or so.
However, none of this takes anything away from the performance itself; in fact, from what I remember of their performance two years ago, when I saw them last, they have actually got better. Classics like 'Up The Junction', 'Labelled With Love' and 'Cool For Cats' still sounded as crisp and fresh as when they were released, and although I admit I was a little worried when the first song they played -'Take Me I'm Yours'- was the one I had been most looking forward to hearing (my thoughts being that it could only go downhill from there), that was most certainly not the case.
The biggest cheers at the end of the show were, of course, reserved for original members Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford, but it was also obvious how impressed the audience were with female bass player Yolanda Charles.
The band's current drummer Simon Hanson is also a huge asset to the group- never have I seen anyone give a more energetic performance than he did last night. Not only did he drum and sing (the latter with more enthusiasm than most of the audience put together) at the same time, but he also managed to dance whilst sitting at his kit (a feat which has to be seen to be believed).
The visuals that went along with the show were highly impressive too; whilst surreal, they added something of an extra layer to the performance, particularly as the band themselves (apart from the drummer, of course) didn't do a lot of moving about.
Slightly disappointing new material aside (final judgement shall be reserved until when album is officially released; in all fairness the songs may sound quite different on the record to how they sounded live) the gig was interesting and entertaining. Throughout the evening the audience were fed a steady diet of witty, wordy, relatively gentle songs that still gave them something to get their teeth into, and from their initial reaction it seems that most came away fairly satisfied.
Let's just hope Squeeze don't find themselves 'up the junction' after the release of their new album. It would be a shame if, after all these years of brilliant music, they tarnished their otherwise impeccable reputation.