By John Curley
Concertgoers in North America this year will have the great opportunity to see two classic songwriting duos on the same stage as Squeeze’s Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford and Daryl Hall and John Oates will be sharing bills on select dates through the beginning of September. If the outstanding, sold-out show featuring Squeeze and Hall and Oates on Friday, February 28th at New York City’s Madison Square Garden was any indication, fans holding tickets for the forthcoming shows are in for one heck of a treat.
The night of music at Madison Square Garden began with a 30-minute solo set by the Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall. Tunstall, accompanying herself on acoustic and electric guitar, used a loop pedal to fill out her sound. Technical issues brought a premature end to her first song. But Tunstall kept her cool and joked with the crowd as the issue was fixed. She followed that up with one of her hits, “Black Horse And The Cherry Tree,” and it received a nice reaction from the crowd. Her cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” was quite good and drew big cheers from the audience. She closed her brief set with her biggest single “Suddenly I See,” which she told the crowd was about Patti Smith. Technical issues led to a few false starts before she was able to perform the song to completion. Rocking out on electric guitar, she punctuated the end of the song with a leap that would’ve made Pete Townshend proud. She received a considerable ovation as she said her goodbyes and left the stage.
Following a five-minute interval, Squeeze took the stage. The legendary British rockers, fronted by founding members Glenn Tilbrook (lead vocals, guitar) and Chris Difford (vocals, guitar), also include Stephen Large (keyboards), Simon Hanson (drums), Steven Smith (percussion), and Melvin Duffy (lap steel, slide, electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin). Bassist Sean Hurley is filling in for the band’s regular bassist Yolanda Charles during the current run of dates in the Northeast.
Since Squeeze is performing in a 60-minute slot on their dates with Hall and Oates, they are playing what is essentially a greatest-hits set. Alluding to their shorter-than-usual set, Tilbrook joked at one point, “We’re just cramming them in tonight.” An energetic and outstanding “Take Me I’m Yours” kicked off Squeeze’s set. The band was on fire, and the crowd was with them from the word go. “A terrific “Up The Junction” followed, featuring a great vocal by Tilbrook and rock-solid playing by the band. “Is That Love” featured another nice vocal by Tilbrook as well as an impressive guitar break by him. A heavy and extended “Slap And Tickle” drew big cheers from the crowd and included some fiery guitar work by Tilbrook near the end of the song. “Please Be Upstanding” received a terrific effort by the band and showed that there certainly are no passengers in Squeeze.
The crowd exploded in a massive cheer when the first few bars of “Pulling Mussels From A Shell” were played. It was one of the highlights of Squeeze’s set. Many in the crowd were on their feet, singing along with a full-throated roar. It was wonderful to witness. And the band kept up the pace, firing on all cylinders to deliver a fantastic performance of “Hourglass.”
A veteran band, Squeeze has played many shows in New York City over the decades. Difford spoke to the crowd with fondness about some of those shows, including the band’s first NYC appearance, which was at CBGB. Difford then led the band in an extended version of “Cool For Cats” on which the band was terrific. During the performance of the song, the screen behind the band showed photos of Squeeze throughout the years. “Tempted” followed, and it started out subdued and soulful, with Tilbrook’s vocal being backed initially by spare instrumentation. The full band kicked in toward the end of the song. It was a nice reworking of the song and also featured some fantastic vocal interplay between Tilbrook and Difford. The crowd loved it. The band kept up the momentum with a superb version of “Another Nail In My Heart” that was yet another highlight in the hit-filled set and featured a great vocal by Tilbrook and another impressive guitar break by the singer.
“Annie Get Your Gun” received a fiery performance by the band that was held together by Tilbrook’s nuanced vocal. “Goodbye Girl” once again featured some outstanding vocal interplay between Tilbrook and Difford. A terrific “If I Didn’t Love You” was highlighted by great vocals from both Tilbrook and Difford as well as Tilbrook’s deft guitar work. Tilbrook wastes no space during his guitar breaks. They are clean and direct , and contain no unnecessary elements.
Squeeze closed their set to big cheers from the crowd with an extended “Black Coffee In Bed,” which included introductions of the band members and some nice work by Large on keytar. As the band said their goodbyes and departed the stage, the crowd rewarded their fantastic set with a deafening roar.
After a 30-minute break, Hall and Oates and their band took the stage. In addition to Hall (vocals, guitar, piano, keyboard) and Oates (vocals, guitar), the band incudes Charles DeChant (saxophone, flute, percussion, keyboards, backing vocals), Eliot Lewis (keyboards, backing vocals), Klyde Jones (bass, backing vocals), Brian Dunne (drums, percussion), Porter Carroll (percussion, backing vocals) and Shane Theriot (guitars, backing vocals). Their setlist was also laden with familiar hits, much to the delight of the packed house.
The opener, “Maneater,” started off somewhat slow and bluesy and contained some very tasty sax work from DeChant. The fired-up crowd loved it. Hall then spoke to the crowd about how the Madison Square Garden show was the first “real” show of the tour, following a warm-up show in Pennsylvania. The next song, “Out Of Touch,” brought the crowd to their feet and featured a good vocal by Hall. A stellar “Adult Education” followed, and it featured a solid performance by the band, a great vocal by Hall and impressive sax playing by DeChant. The bass-heavy “Method Of Modern Love,” a slower song, was given a nice effort by the band. Another bass-heavy song, “Say It Isn’t So,” provided DeChant with a spotlight moment as he went to the lip of the stage to perform the sax break in the song’s midsection and received a big ovation from the crowd.
Prior to the performance of “Everytime You Go Away,” Hall spoke about Paul Young’s hit cover of the song from the 1980s. The band then delivered a slow and bluesy version of the song that was quite nice. DeChant provided a good sax break near the end of the song. A tight take on “One On One” followed, and it featured some terrific vocal interplay between Hall and Oates. The crowd sang along in full voice with the cover of The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” Hall’s vocal on the song was top notch and Oates did a good bit in the middle of the song. The next song, “She’s Gone,” was quite arguably the highlight of Hall and Oates’ set. It was perfect. Soulful with a terrific effort by the band, a great sax break by DeChant and outstanding vocal work by both Hall and Oates, it received a massive roar from the crowd.
Hall then sat behind the grand piano to lead the extended performance of “Sara Smile.” Hall began the song alone and then was joined by the band. Theriot provided an excellent guitar break near the end of the song. Hall remained at the piano for a soulful, bass-heavy and somewhat funky cover of The Dramatics’ “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get.” DeChant’s sax work on the song was exemplary and Oates did a nice vocal in the song’s midsection. The crowd gave it a big hand at the end.
Hall moved to an electric keyboard for the closing song of the main set, “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do).” A funky and bass-heavy performance of the song followed. The audience was really into it, on their feet, and singing along quite enthusiastically with every word. DeChant and Theriot were featured together in a nice spotlight moment toward the end of the song. As the band departed the stage, the crowd rewarded their performance with an ear-shattering roar.
Following a very brief break of about one minute, the band returned to the stage for the encore. “Rich Girl” had Hall at the electric keyboard. The crowd sang along and Theriot contributed an impressive guitar break. The opening notes of “Private Eyes” brought a huge cheer from the audience, and they sang along throughout. Theriot was again featured during the guitar break. And Theriot was also instrumental to the performance of the bass-heavy “Kiss On My List.”
Hall introduced the band prior to the last song of the evening, “You Make My Dreams.” It was a terrific end to the show, as the band pulled out all the stops while the crowd sang and danced along. DeChant provided yet another stellar sax break and Oates contributed some fine guitar work. The crowd roared as the band left the stage, having witnessed a terrific, fun and memorable show by all three of the acts on the bill.
KT Tunstall’s tour dates can be found at www.kttunstall.com.
Squeeze’s tour dates both as a headline act and with Hall and Oates are at www.squeezeofficial.com/shows.
Hall and Oates’ tour dates can be seen at www.hallandoates.com/tour.
KT Tunstall’s setlist at Madison Square Garden was as follows:
Black Horse And The Cherry Tree
Other Side Of The World
I Won’t Back Down (Tom Petty cover)
Suddenly I See
Squeeze’s setlist at Madison Square Garden was as follows:
Take Me I’m Yours
Up The Junction
Is That Love
Slap And Tickle
Please Be Upstanding
Pulling Mussels From A Shell
Cool For Cats
Another Nail In My Heart
Annie Get Your Gun
If I Didn’t Love You
Black Coffee In Bed
Hall and Oates’ setlist at Madison Square Garden was as follows:
Out Of Touch
Method Of Modern Love
Say It Isn’t So
Everytime You Go Away
One On One
You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling (The Righteous Brothers cover)
Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get (The Dramatics cover)
I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)
Kiss On My List
You Make My Dreams