It’s fascinating when you get to a show much earlier than everyone else. As the punters slowly arrive, to the strains of Blondie‘s ‘Call Me‘ and Boston‘s ‘More Than A Feeling‘, I can watch, from my perch up in the gods, to determine, through ace lensman Paul Reno’s body language, whether there’s any ‘trouble at pit’. Photographer’s pit, that is. You’d be surprised how often there are issues with jobsworth security folk or archaic venue rules that seriously hinder any chances of getting a decent shot (though Reno is a true professional and always manages to, regardless). Thankfully, there are no such issues at De Montfort Hall tonight – the site of my first ever gig some 32 years ago (King, if you must know).
Support band Nine Below Zero, arguably, are probably still best known for performing the riotously brilliant ‘11+11‘ on the classic cult comedy show The Young Ones in its inaugural episode back in 1982. After this, despite attaining a loyal following, they inexplicably never really broke into the mainstream, which is all kinds of ridiculous, a fact which is truly drilled home tonight with a scintillating performance. The addition of female vocals, courtesy of the quite staggering Charlie Austen, really is a revelation and gives the band a ‘showy’ edge. With tunes like ‘Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)‘, they have developed a far more accessible sound that is as commercially viable as anything that, say, The Beautiful South put out in the 1990s. Who knew this band was such a splendid live proposition? I certainly didn’t, but now I’ll be making plans to catch them in a headlining capacity. I’m only around 37 years late, but hey, I made it eventually.
Squeeze, meanwhile, are simply magnificent. Interestingly, in four decades of gig-going, I’m pretty sure that this is the first time I have seen a band with multiple sizeable hits to their name delight their audience by playing every single one of them. I couldn’t think of any they missed anyway. But it wasn’t just a greatest hits package, for they found plenty of time to shoehorn a plethora of newer numbers into their set, and it must be said, they are every bit as thrilling to hear live as the old dependables. The first thing you notice is the striking harmonies, then perhaps the two-drummer setup, one o a standard kit and the other on bongo/Burundi type drums. It makes for quite a spectacle and the evening is beautifully lit too.
Anyone who came to the show knowing only the hits didn’t have to wait too long – after opening with the stirring ‘Please Be Upstanding‘ from their most recent album The Knowledge, we are hit with ‘Pulling Mussels From A Shell‘ and everyone is ready to party. Biggest cheers of the night are saved for ‘Another Nail In My Heart‘, ‘Cool For Cats‘ and of course, perennial favourites ‘Up The Junction‘ and ‘Labelled With Love‘, the latter of which I’d forgotten just what an amazing song it was until tonight.
They finish off with an extended ‘Black Coffee In Bed‘, which enables frontman Glenn Tilbrook to effectively introduce each band member, each of whom perform brief solo snippets respectively on their instruments. It’s a good-humoured evening, with much banter flying around, and this seems a perfect way to end. Everybody in the place was on their feet by the time the night was out, and Squeeze rightly received a standing ovation. Not for nothing were Messrs Difford and Tilbrook touted as heirs to the Lennon/McCartney throne back in the day. Except… you know… they’re better.
PHOTO CREDITS: Paul Reno.