Concert Review: Squeeze / Psychedelic Furs @ The Egg, 09/07/2023

What at first glance seemed to be an unlikely pairing of disparate bands proved to be a terrifically entertaining evening of music at The Egg Thursday night.

Squeeze and The Psychedelic Furs? Well, they’re both from London. Squeeze’s first album came out in 1978, the Furs debuted in 1980, and they both went on to greater popularity during the 80s under the umbrella term of “new wave” (what does that even mean anyway?)

Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen

But their actual music couldn’t be more different.

Squeeze are prime purveyors of pristine power pop. Beatles-ish melodies, sunny harmonies, cheery, cheeky chappie cockney personas, and more hooks than a tackle box.

The Furs is an altogether darker proposition. Intense post-punk art rock with a hint of menace and world-weary cynicism.

Well, it worked. Both bands turned in impressive performances before a delighted crowd who resembled members of an ’80s high school reunion determined to turn back the clock and party.

Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen

This was the first night of their co-headlining fall American tour. I was interested to see who would open, and it was the Furs, playing a headline-length 80-minute set (Squeeze’s set coming in about 5 minutes shorter). After some initial sound problems, with saxophonist Mars Williams inaudible for the first two numbers, the band really hit their stride. Williams, guitarist Rich Good, and keyboardist Amanda Kramer creating a dense swirling sound propelled by Zack Alford’s powerful drumming and Tim Butler’s steady bass. Focal point is, of course, vocalist Richard Butler, he and his brother being the only two original and constant members since they formed the band in 1977. Richard doesn’t say much to the audience apart from a few “Thank yous!” yelled at the end of a song, yet has a definite stage presence, constantly moving, pacing, gesturing, crouching down to touch hands with the front row. And his voice, unique, a deep honeyed rasp with a trace of a John Lydon-like sneer, in fine shape. He sounds just like the records.

They play their hits, “Pretty in Pink,” “Heaven,” and “Love My Way,” time warping us all back to the days of John Hughes movies and MTV. They play deep cuts; “President Gas” is a gas gas gas. They play new songs, “Wrong Train” and “No One,” which merge seamlessly with their old material. They go down a storm.

Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen

Squeeze strolls on after an interval, suited and booted, Deptford wide boys, reservoir dogs as imagined by Guy Richie rather than Tarantino. A cheerily “Hello, how are ya” from Glenn Tilbrook, and they are off, motoring through “Take Me, I’m Yours,” their very first UK hit. And hit after hit follows, you forget just how many they had, especially in their native land. In 1982, A & M released a CD compilation called “Squeeze Singles: 45s and Under.” It had 12 tracks on it, all of which became hit singles in the UK in just a 4-year period. And Thursday night, Squeeze played ‘em all!

Tilbrook and fellow guitarist/vocalist Chris Difford are also the only two original members in the current lineup, and, crucially, they wrote all the songs. And what great pop songs they are, even earning the pair comparisons to a couple of lads from Liverpool back in the day. Unusually, Tilbrook is also the lead guitarist, as well as, handling most of the lead vocals. His solos are models of excellence—sharp, fluid, and never outstaying their welcome. Just listen to his solo in “Another Nail for My Heart,” taking two verses to first echo the melody line and then veer off into a jazzy improv to circle back to the bridge. All in about 30 seconds. Sublime.

Tilbrook’s strong, melodic voice also holds up well, given the demands of this material. He does let the audience help him in a singalong of their biggest US hit, “Tempted,” though. The crowd happily obliges, and he looks genuinely moved as their voices ring out.

Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen

Difford plays rhythm guitar, provides the key lower harmony to Tilbrook’s lead, and handles a couple of deadpan vocals himself, like the fast-paced and breathless “Cool for Cats.” He is also responsible for the witty London-centric wordplay of their lyrics. Just remember, “Never chew a pickle with a little slap and tickle.”

This touring version of the band is rounded out by Stephen Large on keys, Simon Hanson on drums, percussionist Steve Smith, bass guitarist Owen Biddle, and Melvin Duffy on pedal steel guitar. They all get a chance to briefly solo whilst being introduced by Tilbrook during a vamp on “Black Coffee In Bed” towards the end of the show. A bit more community singing as the band reprises “Black Coffee,” and then it’s over too soon; the lights come up, and the band waves farewell.

So. Eighties nostalgia? Maybe.

Two excellent bands, each with a great catalog of songs, who can still cut it live? For sure. 

Setlists

The Psychedelic Furs:

  • Into You Like a Train
  • Mr. Jones
  • Heaven
  • You’ll Be Mine
  • Wrong Train
  • President Gas
  • The Ghost in You
  • In My Head
  • Pretty in Pink
  • No Tears
  • No One
  • This’ll Never Be Like Love
  • Sister Europe
  • Heartbeat
  • Love My Way
  • Heartbreak Beat

Squeeze:

  • Take Me I’m Yours
  • Hourglass
  • Up the Junction
  • Here Comes That Feeling
  • What Have They Done?
  • If I Didn’t Love You
  • Slap and Tickle
  • Another Nail for My Heart
  • Annie Get Your Gun
  • Electric Trains
  • Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)
  • Goodbye Girl
  • Tempted
  • Cool For Cats
  • Black Coffee in Bed
  • Band solos and intros
  • Is That Love?
  • Black Coffee in Bed (Reprise)
2 Comments
  1. Rudy says

    Excellent review and pics.

  2. Jim Giglio says

    Great review! We saw the show a few days later at the Stone Pony Summer Stage in Asbury Park. Nostalgic, yes…but both bands rocked! This is intelligent, clever pop served up by top-shelf performers still at the peak of their craft. Angular chords and futuristic (for 1980) synthesized phrasing mark the era for some songs, but the pure fun of great melodies, danceable rhythms and sonic emotions is timeless. I’m grateful that the core members of both bands have assembled outstanding musicians to not only support their tunes but to elevate the excitement and showmanship of their performances. A perfect musical evening.

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