Squeeze and the English Beat at Bergen PAC, April 23, Englewood, NJ

The first time I saw Squeeze, it was at a small bar called Club 57 on St. Mark’s Place in downtown Manhattan. It’s probably because of this, even though I’ve seen them at larger theaters and stadiums, they will always be my favorite bar band. Although they became a legendary, radio-friendly band, Squeeze never lost the familiarity they have with their audience.  This is the band I remember that ran to the bar to throw back a few during breaks, happy to mingle with the crowd. Squeeze wants to have as much fun as the audience.  Last night’s show at Bergen PAC, with the English Beat as openers, was a fast-paced, energetic romp through very familiar territory.

Squeeze didn’t put on any pretenses; a simple screen showed clips of old movies, short films and old press behind them while they played. Glenn Tilbrook is an underrated guitarist. His leads are tasteful, forceful, melodic and fast. He and Chris Difford, the songwriters, pack more chords into their songs than most prog bands. The chords inform the joyous and add subtle drama to their witty lyrics, while poppy beats undercut sad lyrics. When Glenn and Chris sing together they create a signature sound, an identifiable voice that is immediately recognizable as the Squeeze sound. The band is first-rate on their instruments.  John Bentley is on bass, Stephen Large on keyboards and Simon Hanson, the drummer, is so comfortable sitting on Gilson Lavis’ old runs, he finds a new vocabulary for the poetry of his rhythm. During ”Goodbye Girl” Hanson gave a drumstick to members of the audience so they could beat his percussion. The band has fun with the sounds they can incorporate into such pop-rock perfection. Chris alternated between acoustic and electric guitars all evening and Glen switched from guitar to keyboards for  “Slap and Tickle.”

Squeeze has so many favorites that almost all their songs feel like hits. Halfway through the show they played so many popular songs in a row, so enthusiastically, that every song felt like an encore.  They opened with “Take Me I’m Yours” from their first album and closed with “Black Coffee in Bed” and hit all their musical periods.  They opened their encore with an audience-led version of “Tempted.”  They couldn’t play all their most recognizable songs, but they tried their best, hardly lingering for a four count between some songs. They didn’t rush the music, but they skipped everything in between, including most banter, so they could fit in as many songs as they could, knowing they’d have to leave out some fan favorites. I like some of their deep cuts best, so I missed some of my personal favorites, and my kids missed their two favorites, but it didn’t take away from the fun. (Yes, my kids, they’re twelve and bemoan how little good rock there is to find on a popular radio that only plays 12 or thirteen pop artists in any given month.) When the house lights went out on his solo acoustic tour a few years ago, Glen Tilbrook might move the audience to the parking lot.  He had more songs than union rules allowed.

Squeeze is best known for their late 70s and early 80s works. They moved to an independent label in the 90s and continued to make highly melodic music that wasn’t heard nearly enough on American radio. Their most recent studio record was “Spot the Difference” from August 2010 which invited the listener to “spot the difference” between new and old versions of some of their best known songs. The band recently released the 20-track “Live at the Fillmore” album from earlier in the tour.

Squeeze is also a bar band because they’re not just the type of people you’d be drinking with if you go to clubs, they might already be drinking. And if you’re drinking, you’re drinking with them. The English Beat invited the audience to drink with them or to them or on them several times.

The Beat wasn’t as popular in America, where they’re known as The English Beat, as they were in England, but they’ve kept a solid following. They are a 2 Tone ska band formedin Birmingham in 1978. Ska music has the power to move your ass and anything with the power to move your ass has the power to free the mind, or at least make it shake until it’s happy. They opened with a medley of two my favorites of theirs, “Full Stop” and “Mirror in the Bathroom,” and closed with their biggest U.S. hit, “Save It For Later.”     They also put their stamp on covers of  “Tears of a Clown,” originally by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and The Staples’ “I’ll Take you There.” The Beat is Dave Wakeling on vocals and guitar, Ranking Roger on vocals, David Steele  on bass, Everett Morton on drums, Saxa on sax and Mickey Billingham on keyboards, formerly a member of Dexys Midnight Runners and General Public.


Set List


1  Take Me I’m Yours

2. If I Didn’t Love You

3. Tough Love

4. In Quintessence

5. Revue

6. Model

7. Knack

8. Is That Love

9. Points Of View

10. Heaven

11. Melody Motel

12. Bang! Bang!

13. Cool for Cats

14. Up the Junction

15. Another Nail in My Heart

16. Goodbye Girl

17. Annie Get Your Gun

18. Hourglass

19. Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)


20. Slap and Tickle

21. Tempted

22. Black Coffee in Bed


1. Full Stop

2. Mirror In The Bathroom

3. Tears Of A Clown

4. I’ll Take You There (The Staple Singers cover)

5. Never You Done That

6. Tenderness

7. Save It For Later

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    • web site host services

      Hmm, what a pitty that I have missed this opportunity… I love Squeeze and want so much to go to their concert… Maybe some other time. :) Anyway thanks for putting up this great info.

    • iLoveThe80s

      I attended this show and agree with the reviewer.  Both bands did a bang-up job!  It’s great to see bands that have been around as long as these two still bring a crowd pleasing level of enthusiasm and intensity to their performances.    My one quibble though was with the sound quality at the venue.  It was muddy and the vocals were all but swallowed by an over emphasized bass line.  Squeeze is a band that has always layered clever lyrics over sometimes pleasantly dissonant melodies. That appealing quirkiness was somewhat lost in the muddiness of the mix (as was Glenn Tillbrook’s forceful and energetic playing.)  I hope I have a chance in the future to see them again in a venue with a better sound quality.

      • Tsokol37

        You’re right about the muddiness – but I didn’t want to review the house, just the band. They’re playing Roseland this weekend

    • guest

      Sounds like a great time! 

    • TWH

      Wow the set was very short by the Beat… only 7 songs? :-(