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SQUEEZE & DR. JOHN COOPER CLARKE @ The Astor Theatre gets 7/10

Squeeze @ The Astor Theatre
w/ Dr. John Cooper Clarke
Tuesday, May 1, 2018

7/10

Wordsmith, former opiate addict and finely dressed skinny man, Dr. John Cooper Clarke has added the Dr moniker to his name thanks to being awarded an honorary doctorate of arts by the University of Salford in “acknowledgement of bringing poetry to non-traditional audiences“. There is no doubt that it is a deserved honour on tonight’s showing as Clarke had a music loving crowd in the palm of his hands without venturing near an instrument.

Cooper Clarke delivered a mixture of high paced poems, puns, anecdotes and dad jokes that was as much about comedy as it was about prose. His broad Lancashire accent making him even more cartoonish, as he stoically delivered his thoughts. The Offical Guest List was a smile inducing start, before some short sharp banter was offered like “the biggest cause of dry skin … towels”.

Hire Car had a rhythmic cadence, while Beasley Street and Beasley Boulevard were given the same delivery as if the punk poet was calling a horse race. Cooper Clarke treated the crowd to some lewd limericks, shrewd advice (“just because things rhyme doesn’t mean they’re true”), a lighthearted poke at his own history with Get Back on Drugs You Fat Fuck and a reflection of marriage where he stated “a wedding is like a funeral where you get to smell your own roses”. With all this behind him, it was fitting he ended on the potty mouthed Evidently Chickentown before bowing and leaving a stunned and highly amused crowd in his wake.

If Dr. John Cooper Clarke is your unruly uncle, then Squeeze are your impeccably groomed cousin. Glenn Tillbrook is the only founding member in the current line-up with his songwriting partner Chris Difford opting to stay at home for the current Australian leg of the tour, due to anxiety about flying. While it would have been a rare treat to see Difford, this incantation of Squeeze was clearly well oiled and on the money from the outset.

Squeeze may be known as a new wave band, but it is their pop sensibilities that has seen them last for longer than any fad or scene. Pulling Mussels (From the Shell) was an early reminder that Tillbrook has an easily likeable and recognisable timbre to his voice. Hourglass may be one of the band’s biggest hits (in part due to its impressive music video at the time), but it hasn’t dated well, with its MTV sheen not lasting the ages. That said, it was one of the few tunes that didn’t transcend the generations.

The quintet showed to be a deft outfit with many nuances. They switched from the frantic Annie Get Your Gun, a country swing tinged Labelled With Love and a marching band feel on Take Me I’m Yours with great affect. Interspersed among these well loved favourites was a swag of new material (from within the last decade) that broke the flow of the show somewhat. Dropping half of these newer tunes from the night may have led to a more cohesive and vibrant performance, albeit with less excuses to head to the bar.

Tempted had the venue heaving (in a middle aged swaying kind of fashion), while Goodbye Girl saw former Death In Vegas dummer Simon Hanson (a yearning front man in a drummer’s skin) and Steve Smith trade blows on the cowbell in theatrical fashion while Up The Junction soared. Smith took over vocal duties for the absent Difford on Squeeze’s most well known song, Cool For Cats. Black Coffee In Bed ended the evening, but not before Tillbrook introduced each of the band members, who in turn plated a solo on their chosen instrument in stadium rock fashion. It was an indulgent excess, but one the band could afford on a night where they had delivered on the evening’s promise.

CHRIS HAVERCROFT

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