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Wednesday 13 December 2017

So Much Squeezed In

As Glenn Tilbrook plays Dublin, george byrne considers what makes him such a gifted performer

Over the years I've seen a few bands literally clear a room of people -- one heavy metal band from Cavan and an unfortunate wannabe electro-pop outfit called Christy and the Last of the Teenage Idols spring to mind -- but only once has an artist deliberately done so.

Back in the extremely pleasant summer of 2003 (God, it seems almost tropical now compared with the past couple of washouts) Glenn Tilbrook was mid-way through a set in Whelan's when disaster appeared to strike and the PA went down.

Undeterred and professional to the last, Tilbrook offered the crowd a choice: either he'd stand on one of the tables at the front and continue the set or we could all troop outside for an impromptu open-air gig beside the graveyard near the entrance to the venue.

Wisely, the majority of the crowd opted for the latter and so the grinning Tilbrook led us, Pied Piper-like, into the street on a lovely summer evening and performed a short set which included the rock'n'roll classic Sea Cruise as well as his own Squeeze masterpieces Black Coffee in Bed and Up the Junction, after which some joker in the crowd lobbed a couple of euro at his feet and we all headed back inside where the PA was now back in the land of the living.

It was a wonderful snapshot of a gifted performer at work and a memory undiminished by the knowledge that he'd done exactly the same thing at all the other shows he'd performed on that short Irish tour. And there were we believing him!

Whether solo or as part of the brilliant Squeeze, Glenn Tilbrook is a performer not to be missed whenever the opportunity presents itself. Along with his co-writer Chris Difford he has been responsible for a string of classic songs, whether they be the post-punk chart hits Take Me I'm Yours, Goodbye Girl, Another Nail in My Heart, Pulling Mussels (From the Shell), Is That Love?, Tempted, Annie Get Your Gun and Labelled with Love or less-renowned but equally affecting material.

Into the latter category one would place Some Fantastic Place and Electric Trains, both simultaneously sad yet somehow joyous recollections of loss.

On previous solo visits to Dublin, Tilbrook has more than proved himself to be a consummate entertainer, not only dipping into his own extensive and bejewelled back catalogue but up for all sorts of diversion by way of cover versions.

On previous occasions he's veered off into great covers of songs by Gilbert O'Sullivan, Prince, The Kinks, The Beatles and Fountains of Wayne in addition to dips into the rock'n'roll and country canon.

In short, he can be a one-man jukebox when the mood is just right and, in Dublin, it usually is.

Tilbrook's albums outside the Squeeze banner display all the qualities one would expect from such a master craftsman, with last year's Pandemonium even featuring a guest appearance from Johnny Depp, so while there's bound to be a smattering of unfamiliar songs in Saturday's set they won't spark an exodus to the bar.

And, should the weather hold up there's always the knowledge that the Village is actually closer to that graveyard than Whelan's. Should the PA mysteriously break down, of course.

Glenn Tilbrook plays the Village on Saturday supported by London R'n'B outfit Nine Below Zero

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