Two rock stars tumble out of bed, before finding themselves a cup of tea and gazing around at a packed room of spectators. Not something you often witness in a church and no ordinary start to a gig. Tonight, however, Union Chapel hosts a rare treat of Squeeze frontmen, Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, staging an evening of songs and conversation entitled The At Odds Couple Tour.
An elaborate stage set depicts a bedroom from the 1970s, strewn with guitars and mannequins and engulfed in highly patterned wall paper. The set references their emergence in that decade’s New Wave scene and is highlighted by film footage above the stage, which begins by showing an advert looking for musicians to start a band – the very way this ‘odd couple’ met.
Kicking off with early hit Take Me, I’m Yours, the pair perform together and separately (taking the chance to individually disappear and swap pyjamas for their more usual stage attire of colourful suits). A flurry of Squeeze favourites including Black Coffee In Bed, Is That Love and Pulling Muscles From The Shell are fired out early in the show.
Difford takes over proceedings to roll out some solo gems such as Fat As A Fiddle and Cowboys Are My Weakness. He amuses the audience with descriptions of his younger self, lazing around with a flatmate listening to Tubular Bells and finding ways to minimise physical effort, such as by sending spliffs across the room to one another on toy trains.
A man in a gold cape wanders the aisles to take questions from the audience at various points in the set. The crowd seem a little under prepared for this opportunity and slightly strange conundrums are posed, with one man simply offering a football result.
However, when it comes to singalongs, the audience are ready to shine, happily taking up backing vocal duties and clapping along on the more exuberant tracks.
Crowd favourite Up The Junction ends the first act of tonight’s show with an enthusiastic rendition by both performers and audience.
The second act opens with the title track of their 1993 album Some Fantastic Place.
Tilbrook gets his chance for a solo slot, which includes Persephone, from his latest album Happy Ending, and Chat Line Larry from his collaboration project The Co-operative, which tonight features a particularly impressive opening guitar solo.
Difford returns for the pair to steam through a run of classics, including Annie Get Your Gun, Slap And Tickle and Tempted, which is accompanied by a hilarious, if technically lyrically appropriate, video of endless sliced fruit. Cool For Cats gets the congregation to their feet and the stained glass windows rattling.
The pair are quickly brought back for an encore. They delight fans with news of recording fresh material for a BBC series in early 2015 and finish the show with Labelled With Love and my personal favourite, Goodbye Girl.
The night has been a delightful mix of music, laughter and the curiously enriching experience of hearing familiar and much loved songs delivered in a new way. Hopefully this couple won’t be too much at odds to keep them from finding ways to work together. Definitely worth getting out of bed for…
8th November Union Chapel. Words and photographs by Imelda Michalczyk. www.rebeladelica.com