After putting their beloved band Squeeze to bed a decade and a half ago, Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford found a cheeky way to kick off their duo show Tuesday night at the Cedar Cultural Center: in bed.
The lights over the Cedar stage came up to reveal the British pop heroes buried under the covers in a pair of twin beds that had been set up in front of a backdrop of wallpaper, lamps, wall ornaments, etc., all made to look like a boys bedroom circa 1966. It might be the most elaborate stage props in Cedar history. Tilbrook and Difford took the gimmick so far they popped up to reveal matching flannel pajamas and proceeded to make their beds before launching into the opening tune, “Take Me I’m Yours,” whose smitten tone appropriately set the mood for the love fest that came next.
It wasn’t their first local gig since putting Squeeze on hiatus – they also played the zoo amphitheater in 2010 – but Tuesday’s two-set, two-hour-plus acoustic performance had an air of rebirth to it since it followed the release of their first Squeeze album in 17 years, “Cradle to the Grave.”
“It’s not often you can say this is our first album out this century, but that is indeed the case here,” Tilbrook said as they launched into the night’s first new song, “Nirvana.”
They would play four more tunes off the record, all of which were complemented by video footage that showed on a TV-shaped big-screen backdrop. The sentimental highlight “Beautiful Game” came with vintage soccer footage, while “Cradle to the Grave” showed scenes of grade-school kids singing in a pub alongside the older blokes (Difford and Tilbrook) doing the same.
The other interesting new twist on the sold-out show – which will be repeated with a second Cedar gig Wednesday night (also sold-out) -- were Q&A segments with the audience in each of the two sets. Questions ranged from, “What was it like working with Elvis Costello?” and, “Who inspired the female characters on [1981’s concept album] ‘East Side Story?’” to, “Why is it very windy where Glen is and not Chris?” (there was a very efficient fan plugged in at his feet). The best one was, “Has your pool game gotten any better, Glen?” from Kate Meier of Minnetonka, who recalled beating him numerous times at First Avenue’s pool table back in 1987. Tilbrook’s dry reply after hearing her explanation: “No, it’s about the same.”
The charm of hearing the longtime songwriting partners sing “Black Coffee in Bed,” “Pulling Muscles (From the Shell)” and “Tempted” is about the same, too. Not only did the crowd go ga-ga for those hits but also ate up and sang along excitedly to the fast-paced, truly best-for-last encore that included “If I Didn’t Love You” and “Goodbye Girl.” Here’s the full set list from Tuesday's concert:
SET #1: Take Me I’m Yours / Cool For Cats / Black Coffee in Bed / Nirvana / Electric Trains / Some Fantastic Place / Beautiful Game / Slap & Tickle / Fat as a Fiddle / Wrecked / Cowboys Are My Weakness / Up the Junction
SET #2: Still / Ice Cream / The Elephant Ride / Annie Get Your Gun / Only 15 / Happy Days / Cradle to the Grave / Pulling Muscles (From the Shells) / Is That Love / Tempted ENCORE: Another Nail in My Heart / If I Didn’t Love You / Goodbye Girl