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One of the most respected songwriters of his time, Squeeze’s Glen Tilbrook had composed so many well-crafted songs with bandmate Chris Difford that they earned comparisons to Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Whenever Difford presented Tilbrook with a set of lyrics, Tilbrook went right to work on the instrumentation that, combined with his own vocals, would truly bring the band’s songs to life. Even after Squeeze’s second break-up in 1999 and Tilbrook went on to pursue a solo career, he would almost always start with the lyrics. “I now write more lyrics than tunes I think. Sometimes the two come together, but more often than not it’s always a separate process for me,” explained Tilbrook when he stopped by the WERS studios before the first official show of his latest tour. “I think the lyric should always be given the freedom that it needs without any constraints before we come to think of tunes.” He further demonstrated how powerful lyricism and musicality can be when one is led by the other with the kind of performance that only Squeeze’s frontman could pull off.
Glen Tilbrook began his solo acoustic set with a new song titled “Ray” which will be included in a long-delayed solo album that he hopes to have out by November or January. “Ray” was a contemplative character study with a sad, almost mournful tone lamenting the title character’s situation. Tilbrook sings, “Things aren’t going [Ray’s] way / though they were for a while / but he didn’t know the difference / between substance and style.” Tilbrook appears to portray “Ray” as someone who was once famous and loved, but fell out of grace once his fifteen minutes were up and is having difficulty accepting the fact.
Tilbrook followed this up with “Everybody Sometimes,” another new song that he plans to include in his next solo album. “Everybody Sometimes” featured a more upbeat melody and more of the Squeeze frontman’s trademark style and wit. His high pitched vocal delivery went hand-in-hand with his well-constructed selection of chords. No matter how complex his music or lyrics might be, Tilbrook conveys them with such an approachable demeanor that anyone can enjoy them.
In fact, Tilbrook’s solo sets are often intimate affairs in which he invites the audience to make requests and even walk the streets with them as he performs. When asked about his live shows before his in-studio performance, he recalled a favorite performance of his which occurred right here in Boston. “It’s a process that starts with being free,” he said. “I do remember one of my favorite ends of shows ever was here, in Boston, where I took the audience outside… and then I got into a passing car and that was the end of show.” Tilbrook hadn’t even planned it ahead of time. The driver in question had no idea ahead of time that he would come across Tilbrook in his open-top car, but he still felt comfortable enough around Tilbrook to let the singer ride away in his car. Very few accomplished performers are capable of winning over a complete stranger’s trust in such a manner and speaks volumes about how amenable Tilbrook is both on and off the stage.
Finally, Tilbrook treated listeners with one of Squeeze’s most memorable hits, “Tempted.” Although “Tempted” was released over three decades ago, Tilbrook’s in-studio performance of the song was just as vigorous as the original recording. Tilbrook briskly goes the a set of conflicted feelings portrayed in the song as the protagonist it portrays goes through his day. It showcased the sort of uniquely stylized storytelling that has helped Squeeze’s music live on for so long and continue to attract new fans after all these years. While Tilbrook’s performance spoke to the legacy he has left with Squeeze, it showed that even when he’s standing on his own two feet Glenn Tilbrook still has plenty more to offer.