Support comes from Paul Heaton and his three piece band consisting of drums, bass and lead guitar – the classic Housemartins line up. Heaton is in fine voice and jovial mood as he refers to how young his band is and tells us how he got lost on his way to the venue. He plays a good selection of songs, the bigger cheers being reserved for “Me and the farmer” and “Caravan of love”, performed a capella by all four band members. A great set from an old hand who knows how to entertain.

Squeeze have been around since 1974 and have an enviable back catalogue of classic English pop songs. They’re in the same league that artists like The Blockheads,  Madness, The Kinks and Paul Heaton occupy, witty songwriters with tales of very English kitchen sink dramas.

They’ve split up and had a few line up changes over the years (including having Jools Holland and his younger brother Chris playing keyboards at different times in the band) but the core team Of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook have been there since the beginning.The current line up consists of drums, bass, keyboards with Difford and Tilbrook playing various guitars. Keyboard player Steve Large also plays accordian and melodica on two of the songs, coming out from behind his keyboards at the back of the stage for these solos.

They kick things off with “Bang bang”, an oldie from 1978 that feels as if it’s played solely to warm the band up, then they launch into “Annie get your gun”. Once they’re warmed up though, they get into the spirit of this “Pop up shop” tour by playing a couple of good new songs laced with the traditional Squeeze formula, “Tommy” (about a school teacher) and “Top of the form” (a recollection of 1970’s school days). The new song “Tommy” is performed a capella with the band lined up at the front of the stage. They have a backdrop showing footage of the South West String Section which accompanies the song. The band make good use of the backdrop throughout the show, projecting footage of a young Squeeze playing an open air gig, showing animated graphics or displaying the lyrics to some of the songs.

Not surprisingly, it’s the familiar hits that get the biggest reaction, eventually getting the audience in the packed Dome onto its feet. So we get to hear:

  • Slap and tickle
  • Is that love?
  • Labelled with love
  • Take me I’m yours
  • Another nail in my heart
  • From the cradle to the grave
  • Tempted
  • Up the junction
  • Pulling mussels (from the shell)
  • Up the junction
  • Cool for Cats

There’s a great response to this greatest hits section of the show, with plenty of people singing along and the band looking very pleased with the reaction. They encore with “Black coffee in bed” then disperse into the foyer to man the stalls to sell some merchandise. As part of this “Pop up tour”, each set is recorded then immediately available for sale. Bands like with Squeeze see the benefits of no record company interference and doing things for themselves, using ethical merchandise company Sandbag to produce their t-shirts and bags.

All in all, a great set from a classic English band. I’m glad they’re recording new stuff and not relying on their past hits, something Madness are also doing, and why not when both bands are still capable of writing a great song.