Photo from Squeeze's Facebook page.
The B-52’s and Squeeze arrived for their outdoor double bill in Chicago on the final day of a heatwave that had inflicted 100º temperatures on the city for most of the week. By the 7:30 show time last Friday night, it was somewhere in the low 90s at the lakefront Charter One Pavilion on Northerly Island, but there were plenty of empty seats. Still, neither band was about to let low attendance or steamy weather affect its performance.
“Let’s Party!”vocalist Kate Pierson shouted at the start of The B-52’s set. The audience accepted her invitation, creating an immediate festive atmosphere. Pierson, vocalist Cindy Wilson, guitarist Keith Strickland, and vocalist Fred Schneider seemed ageless as they and their back-up musicians romped through songs like “Mesopotamia,” “Private Idaho,” and the weather-appropriate “Lava.”
When Schneider proclaimed that he and his band mates were visitors from the future, it was almost possible to believe him. He hasn’t lost a bit of sass as a frontman, particularly on “Party Out Of Bounds.” After a rollicking hour-long set that included “52 Girls,” “Roam,” and “Love Shack,” The B-52’s returned with the eerie sci-fi epic, “Planet Claire,” and the freewheeling “Rock Lobster” as their encores.
Squeeze had a tough act to follow, and at least a few avid B-52’s fans split after Schneider and company had finished. It’s hard to conceive of anyone taking a pass on seeing one of the best English bands of past 40 years, and it’s not like Squeeze drops by Chicago on a regular basis. Fortunately, Squeeze had its share of supporters at Charter One Pavilion, and they sprang to life as the group opened with “Take Me I’m Yours.”
Founding members, guitarists-vocalists Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford created perfect harmonies, with occasional help from long-time member, bassist John Bentley, on early gems like “If I Didn’t Love You,” “In Quintessence,” and “Is That Love?” Keyboards player Stephen Large, and drummer Simon Hanson provided steady support. Tilbrook, sporting an elfin beard, handled most of the lead singing, with Difford taking over for the funny, working class lament, “Cool For Cats.” The band’s performance justified numerous years of critical acclaim, with spot-on versions of “Another Nail In My Heart” and the more recent “Melody Hotel.”
The concert also offered a preview of an upcoming Squeeze CD with newly-penned Tilbrook/Difford material. “Tommy” was a stinging portrait of a small-minded, lonely bigot set to a string arrangement reminiscent of The Jam’s “Smithers-Jones.” The guitar-driven “Top Of The Form” already feels like a Squeeze classic, with its ska rhythms and infectious melody. The band was selling a four-song CD, called Arse About Face 2012 Demos at a merchandise table just outside the seated area, and it bodes well for the next release from Squeeze.
Unfortunately, I had to leave before Squeeze was finished, in order to catch the last bus back into downtown Chicago. I could hear the strains of “Goodbye Girl” drifting across the museum campus as I boarded the #146.