Well, here it is, Monday night going into Tuesday morning... my first chance to sit down and think about my INCREDIBLE weekend, capped by seeing Squeeze perform three times in the span of thirty hours! (Not to mention spending two days at the Fleadh... well, okay, a day and a half.) And now I've got the Keswick show just a few hours away...
Since this is a *looooong* story, I've decided to break it into four
I. SQUEEZE AT THE FLEADH
This was a hits-heavy set, designed to get the crowd moving; it sure did that! Glenn spent a good portion of the set pumping up the crowd-- walking downstage for a guitar solo, turning his microphone toward the audience for singalong segments. (I wonder why he didn't do those mic tricks at Hard Rock Live... it would have been a perfect place to do it.) Chris even stepped aside and let Hilaire take center stage during his bass solo on Take Me I'm Yours. The audience reacted just as the band had hoped; the crowd began tossing beach balls around. Early in the set a beach ball landed on the stage near Hilaire, and he gave it a soccer-kick back into the audience. Less than two minutes later, another beach ball came in-- and hit poor Hilaire on the head!! He was truly startled-- I think it was the one moment in the show where he wasn't smiling!-- but he quickly regained his composure, and didn't miss a note. (Is Hilaire the happiest musician ever? I mean, Keith was great, but Keith gave the impression that he was working at it-- with Hilaire it seems effortless. Now if Hilaire would just SING INTO THE MICROPHONE instead of looking away at his fretboard.... sigh....)
Coming after the gorgeous songs of the Irish ballad singer Maura O'Connell, Squeeze transformed the Fleadh into the festival it should have been all along. (But why didn't Maura do her version of Paul Carrack's "Bad News At The Best Of Times"? Would have been the perfect time for it.)
Here's the setlist, as best I remember it (the show lasted about 45 minutes):
This setlist is probably about 90% right; the first four songs are definite, as are the last four. I have a feeling they might have done Melody Motel after It's Over, but these shows are all blending together. My apologies.
Later in the night I stood at the edge of the stage in one of the Fleadh tents with a woman named Karen, a fellow folkie and die-hard Nanci Griffith fan. When Nanci finished at around 10pm, I told Karen that I was leaving to see Squeeze again; she was instantly jealous. "They were *awesome* today!" she said. How right she was....
II. HARD ROCK LIVE RECAP
I got to the studio around 7:30pm and was fifth in line for general admission. I mentioned to the others that I hoped there would be more people in the audience than on the stage! We had been told to line up at 7:45 and that doors would open at 8:15; however, at 7:35 we were told that Ben Folds Five had just started. I knew we were in for a long, wet night. Still, we perservered; and at around 9:15 we finally got inside. (Strange thing-- Bob and Doris, who were right behind me the whole time, suddenly turned around and waved goodbye just as I was about to get in. Where are you? Did you get in some other way? What's the story?)
The following night at the Mercury I heard someone in line behind me (I think it was Brian) say that he thought the band gave a good performance at Hard Rock Live but that the audience was unresponsive. Well, you sure weren't in *my* section of the audience! Plenty of dancing and merriment. What a joy it was to look around and see new friends like Drew, Joy and Michelle doing just what I was doing-- making a happy fool of myself while singing along with the chorus of Third Rail!
Six songs into the set, during To Be A Dad, I retrieved my soggy baseball cap from my pocket and put it on. I figured it would stand out on the air-- it would sure look better onscreen than my bald spot!! So if you're watching the show, look for the white baseball cap on Chris Holland's side of the stage with "88.5" emblazoned on it. (That's the dial position of my favorite radio station, WXPN Philadelphia-- it'll make my friends who work at the station happy for the free publicity!)
Last year I went to the same studio to see a taping of PBS' "Sessions at West 54th" with Richard Thompson and Nanci Griffith; each artist played at least 45 minutes, yet their work was cut down to 28 minutes (including interview segments). If what I've read is true, and Hard Rock Live is keeping its current format (a one hour show with half an hour for each artist), then the 50-minute concert we saw will be cut to around twenty minutes on the air. Given that, I thought it strange that Chris D.'s only solo vocal was Fingertips; given that it's a loooooong ballad, there's a good chance it'll be cut from the final show. They should have done Cool For Cats instead to give Chris some airtime. (In fact, given the "exciting live concert" vibe VH1 is shooting for, there's a chance that the other ballads-- To Be A Dad and Walk Away-- will be cut also.) Just my opinion.
Glad I got to see the unedited version.
III. A NIGHT AT THE MERCURY LOUNGE
I should mention that Hilaire isn't the only member who seems happy to be there-- Chris and Glenn were very pleased to see such an outpouring. Glenn is emerging more than ever as a guitar hero; isn't his guitar version of the Hourglass saxophone just *perfect*? It's the familiar notes, but the tone is different enough to startle you each time. Meanwhile Chris H. and Ash seemed to be working very hard at keeping everything together, and doing an excellent job.
And has anyone mentioned the splendid vocal contributions of "our own" Ms. Julia Brown during Black Coffee in Bed? Glenn *really* wasn't expecting those notes!! By the way, if Chris ever decides to start singing Striking Matches again, they should give Julia a call to do the female vocal part!
Overall, I really like this version of Squeeze. Seeing them do a full-length concert in a small club was thrilling. And yet... I feel they haven't peaked. This version of the band reminds me of the band that Springsteen toured with after the breakup of the E Street Band. I saw that band play twice, and thought they played wonderfully, yet I never felt they were about to break loose and play whatever they felt like (as I felt the one time I saw the E Street Band). With the Carrack/Thomas and Jools/Gilson lineups of Squeeze, I had the feeling that Squeeze could turn on a dime and play any song in any style. I don't have that feeling yet with the latest version of Squeeze, but I know that's because this is a young band with only a few dozen songs in their repertoire. This band has the potential to be just as good as the previous lineups; they certainly have three incredibly talented new members who can take them anywhere. They give me a lot to be hopeful for.
And I can hardly wait to see them all at the Keswick!
IV. THE REST OF THE FLEADH
Quick summaries of the bands I got to see:
By that time it was 6pm, and thanks to the Mercury Lounge show I was exhausted. I decided to stay one more hour to see the brilliant fiddler Eileen Ivers, but when they wheeled out a Farfisa organ I realized there may have been a schedule change! (Eileen can get people dancing, but not to that Farfisa beat....) Sure enough, she had switched slots with Yo La Tengo. I decided to skip the rest of the show (missing great artists like Patti Smith, Tracy Chapman, X and Indigo Girls) and leave New York. I was back in Philadelphia by 10pm.
An exhausting, thrilling weekend... it would have been good even without
Squeeze, but Squeeze made it stupendous.