On Sept. 18, 2019, a tropical storm developed from nothing in mere hours in the Gulf of Mexico and dumped up to 43 inches of rain in Southeast Texas, causing widespread flooding.
And I went to see Squeeze in concert at The Warehouse Live in Houston.
My friend Greg, who lives in Houston, had got us tickets six months before. This was the band’s 45th anniversary tour and they were playing all the hits. The band is roughly my age and their music was a big part of my late teens. “Up the Junction,” “Cool for Cats,” “Another Nail in My Heart,” “Pulling Mussels,” “Black Coffee in Bed” — I can, and often do, sing along. I don’t go to a lot of concerts anymore — I can’t stand messing with crowds and I’m boring — but I couldn’t miss this one.
I left Beaumont in the early afternoon as I knew there would be a little rain and I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to get to Greg’s. Actually, the rain hit his house right as we were leaving his place to head out for some food prior to the gig. It was a bit of a gullywasher, but that is not unusual in this part of Texas. I figured it would pass and, sure enough, by the time we had finished our meal and were ready to cross the street to the gig, it was just a slight drizzle.
As soon as the doors opened, Greg and I stood in our place, front row center. I don’t mind standing, it reminds me of my younger days.
Old-school California punk band X opened the show. They were good, although the lyrics were a bit muddy, and they still have a lot of energy. Bassist John Doe and singer Exene Cervenka had the weathered look one would expect from 40 years on the road, but guitarist Billy Zoom looks more like a retired accountant. But he could still wield that Gretsch guitar like a champ — even with an ever-present drip of water from the leaky roof splashing down inches away from where he was perched on a stool.
Between sets, the roadies came and moved the instruments around. I love watching set up. It’s like watching set changes in theater. It’s a choreographed routine, with each person on their task, taking things away and putting things in, unplugging and plugging in various instruments, reconfiguring mic stands, doing sound checks. It’s a 20-minute show in itself.
Squeeze were everything I had hoped. They played a true greatest-hits set — and they had a bunch of great hits. Several times during the set I thought, “Oh shit, I forgot about this one.” Squeeze is essentially the tandem of songwriters Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrook, who were once dubbed the new Lennon and McCartney. Their songs are often brilliantly crafted narratives that draw on the storytelling tradition of The Kinks. “Up the Junction,” inspired by the classic 1960s movie, tells the story of a young couple’s failed relationship. Difford and Tillbrook’s wordplay is often witty and full of subtly. “Cool For Cats,” is a sly pun-play that perfectly captures the attitudes of “likely lads” from 1970s England.
One of Squeeze’s main strengths — apart from the songwriting — has been great musicianship. Difford and Tillbrook are the only original band members, but their replacements have some serious chops. One of my favorite members from the late-1970s was keyboardist Jools Holland, but Simon Hanson, resplendent in a Jack Skellington-striped suit, was quite the showman, as well as cracking good on the keys.
Difford and Tillbrook led a singalong on “Tempted,” which was fun (although, truth be told, I had been running my own private singalong the entire show, complete with backing vocals.
The best part of the gig was that the band just looked like they were having fun and were enjoying themselves as much as we were. It was a great gig.
Then it was time to go home. Remember Imelda? Well, that’s another story….
Next: Maybe I should have stayed in Houston.