By John Curley
It had been a very hot summer in the New York City metropolitan area. But the temperature has dropped a bit recently, so that when Squeeze’s “The Difford and Tilbrook Songbook” tour arrived in New York City on Saturday, August 24th for the performance at The Rooftop at Pier 17 at Manhattan’s South Street Seaport, the weather was fantastic. A nice breeze blowing in from the East River greeted concertgoers. The setting for the show was quite picturesque, as the venue provided great views of both the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines as well as the Brooklyn Bridge, which can be seen through the open back of the stage.
Opening the festivities was a heralded hometown band, Brooklyn’s They Might Be Giants. Comprised of founding members John Flansburgh (vocals, guitar) and John Linnell (vocals, keyboards, accordion and woodwinds) as well as Dan Miller (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Danny Weinkauf (bass, keyboards), and Marty Beller (drums, percussion) and augmented by Curt Ramm (trumpet), TMBG put on a quirky and fun 60-minute set. They got the crowd going with the spirited opener “The Communists Have The Music” and received a massive response from the audience with the cover of The Four Lads’ “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” which featured some fine work on trumpet by Ramm. (Ramm has also performed recently with Bruce Springsteen.) “Damn Good Times” provided a spotlight for the stellar musicianship of Beller on drums and Miller on guitar. Following a rocking performance of “Man, It’s So Loud in Here,” the crowd erupted when they heard the first notes of “Ana Ng,” TMBG’s first big hit. The band gave a fantastic performance of it that had the crowd roaring. The performance of “The Mesopotamians” also revved up the audience as did “James K. Polk,” which featured a strong vocal by Linnell. “Let Me Tell You About My Operation” included some stellar trumpet playing by Ramm. Linnell showed his versatility, playing accordion on “Doctor Worm” and alto clarinet on “All Time What.” The excellent “The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight” spotlighted booth Linnell and Ramm. An excellent version of TMBG’s biggest hit “Birdhouse In Your Soul” received a huge reaction from the crowd. Following introductions of the band members, TMBG ended their set with a wonderful “Particle Man” that received a big cheer from the crowd.
Following an interval of 30 minutes, Squeeze took the stage to a huge roar from the sold-out crowd. Augmented through the end of this year by guitarist/keyboardist Melvin Duffy, Squeeze’s lineup on this tour features founding members Glenn Tilbrook (vocals, guitar) and Chris Difford (vocals, guitar) as well as Simon Hanson (drums), Steve Smith (percussion), Stephen Large (keyboards) and Yolanda Charles (bass). The veteran British rockers kicked off their 100-minute set with a rousing rendition of “Footprints” that had the crowd grooving. “Big Beng” featured funky bass and drums. “Hourglass” was given a terrific performance by the band that received a huge hand at the end. “Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)” featured an outstanding guitar break by Tilbrook and had the crowd singing along at the top of their voices. The crowd continued singing along with “Up The Junction,” which featured a terrific performance by the band and a great vocal from Tilbrook.
Tilbrook spoke to the crowd about how he and Difford had gone through their songbook prior to the tour to decide what to play. The result was their biggest hits mixed with some lesser-known songs that are favorites of theirs. They decided to rework the song “King George Street” to make it more fun for them to play. And the performance of the song that followed featured some nice vocal work by both Difford and Tilbrook.
Following performances of “Someone Else’s Heart” and “Third Rail,” Difford talked to the audience about how he and Tilbrook first met 45 years ago when Tilbrook answered the ad that Difford had placed in a shop window and, with the concert being in Lower Manhattan, reminisced about the band playing CBGB, which had been located not far from where the concert took place, on an early American tour. The band then performed a very lively version of “In Quintessence” that had the crowd cheering and singling along. “The Day I Get Home” received a spirited effort by the band and Tilbrook’s fine vocal work highlighted “Please Be Upstanding.”
The show really started to pick up steam with the rip-roaring performance of “Annie Get Your Gun.” It featured the band firing on all cylinders, great vocals by Tilbrook and Difford and the crowd singing along in a full-throated roar. It received a massive response from the audience at the end. An extended version of “Cool For Cats” had a fantastic vocal by Difford, a great guitar break courtesy of Tilbrook and nice keyboard work toward the end of the song by Large.
The jaunty “Cradle To The Grave” (the theme song for the BBC-TV sitcom Cradle to Grave) was given an entertaining run through and featured terrific vocals from Tilbrook and Difford. A truly outstanding extended version of “Slap And Tickle” followed and it featured a great effort by the band, particularly Large on keyboards and Tilbrook on guitar. “Love’s Crashing Waves” from Difford and Tilbrook’s 1984 self-titled album (their first after the initial breakup of Squeeze in 1982) was up next. It received a nice reaction from the crowd.
The concert entered the home stretch with the great performance of “Tempted” that was highlighted by Tilbrook’s soulful vocal. They jacked up the pace a bit with the terrific take on “Another Nail In My Heart” that featured an excellent guitar break by Tilbrook and had the crowd singing along. The audience’s vocal participation continued on the wonderful version of “Goodbye Girl.” The main set drew to a close with a fantastic performance of “If I Didn’t Love You” that featured great work by every member of the band. The crowd sang along at the top of their voices, roared loudly as the band left the stage and continued to cheer until the band returned to the stage about a minute later.
As the band members walked back onto the stage, the synth intro to “Take Me I’m Yours” was playing. An awesome performance of the song followed that featured a loud and quite boisterous singalong from the audience. The band then went right into “Is That Love,” which was given a terrific effort by the band and had a top-notch vocal by Tilbrook at its center. The show ended with a very lengthy version of “Black Coffee In Bed” that incorporated the introductions of the band members into the song.
Squeeze always deliver the goods live, and this outdoor show in Lower Manhattan was no exception. They remain a must-see in concert.
Additional information about They Might Be Giants can be found at https://www.theymightbegiants.com/. They are not currently on tour.
Squeeze are touring in the USA through September 22nd. The tour then moves to Ireland and their native UK in October and November. Following a two-month break, the tour resumes in February for dates in New Zealand and Australia. Full tour dates can be found at http://www.squeezeofficial.com/shows/.
They Might Be Giants’ setlist was as follows:
The Communists Have The Music
Istanbul (Not Constantinople) (The Four Lads cover)
Damn Good Times
Man, It’s So Loud In Here
New York City (cub cover)
James K. Polk
Let Me Tell You About My Operation
All Time What
The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)
Birdhouse In Your Soul
Squeeze’s setlist was as follows:
Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)
Up The Junction
King George Street
Someone Else’s Heart
The Day I Get Home
Please Be Upstanding
Annie Get Your Gun
Cool For Cats
Cradle To The Grave
Slap And Tickle
Love’s Crashing Waves (Difford & Tilbrook song)
Another Nail In My Heart
If I Didn’t Love You
Take Me I’m Yours
Is That Love
Black Coffee In Bed