It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Squeeze – four years actually. Last time they played a free show at Coney Island and it was the last night of their US tour. This time, rtb and I were very excited to see them at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester for the last night of another US tour. During dinner, rtb mentioned that she’d heard that The English Beat has been touring with Squeeze but neither of us knew if they were actually opening for them last night. We were anxious to find out.
I had decided I wanted to finally check out the Mexican restaurant, El Tío, next to the theater and my plan to get there by 6pm didn’t go as planned. I miscalculated how long it would take to get to Grand Central Station and had forgotten about dealing with lines at the ticket machines. Some man was looming over me while I made my purchase. What is it with the looming men lately? Then I couldn’t find the track of the train that was just about to leave, found the track, train was gone, went back to see what track the next train leaving would be, passed a bunch of people holding signs that said, “Silent Majority for Trump,” passed by them as quickly as possible, saw the next train was leaving soon, found the track, found a seat, and settled in. I thought rtb would beat me to the restaurant but she was on the following train, so I got a table and ordered chips and salsa and guacamole and a margarita and waited. The food and drinks were okay. Most Mexican restaurants don’t charge for the chips and salsa, but that’s all right. I ordered four tacos, each with a different type of meat. I had asked if the spicy salsa was very hot and the waitress said it wasn’t but then the tacos didn’t include the salsa – maybe she decided I couldn’t handle it. There were lime slices to put on them and they included cilantro and onions. It was obvious which meat was what (chorizo, tongue, beef steak, and I forgot the fourth) by the texture but all four tasted exactly the same. As we were sitting there the place filled up and at 7:50pm I asked for the check, assuming that they were used to people wanting to get out just before 8pm for the show next door. We waited, asked for the check again, and finally got it. Then we waited for them to pick up the check and rtb went over to the bar and had them check us out right away. I hadn’t checked the bill closely and when they handed me the credit card slips they did not include the original bill. I didn’t want to tip on the tax but we were in a big hurry since it was after 8pm, so I just gave them a nice tip and we left. Later I checked their Yelp reviews and several people thought the food was the best authentic Mexican they’d had (!?!) but others complained that on a table of two the restaurant charged a 18% gratuity. Since this is not regular practice on small tables, most people don’t notice. I thought the bill was a little high but now I’m pissed that I tipped them twice. I don’t advise going to that restaurant but, if you do, check the bill carefully.
The lobby was still very crowded with people and the band didn’t show up for maybe 15 minutes after we’d arrived (late) so we were okay. We were in the last row with seats on the aisle, which gave rtb the opportunity to dance freely in the aisle all night long. Last night the theme was psychedelia on the walls but they still had the little cartoon squirrel jumping around.
I noticed (what I think are) new VIP booths up in each corner – padded booths and a table with waitress service for five. Based on the website, it’s a good view also. Everyone rushed to their seats in the theater as the music started.
We got our wish – the opening act was The English Beat. I knew that back in the early 80s the band had had several hits. I always get a lot of the English bands of that period mixed up. I knew The English Beat were a ska band, that they were The Beat in the UK but had to call themselves The English Beat in the US because there already was an American band called The Beat and they were the UK Beat in Australia. rtb mentioned that there was a contentious break-up and now there were two bands traveling as The Beat/The English Beat. The one we saw is The English Beat starring Dave Wakeling (the original lead singer/guitarist) and the other is The Beat featuring Ranking Roger/The New English Beat featuring Ranking Roger (original toaster). After the original band’s break-up in 1983, Wakeling and Ranking Roger formed General Public and Andy Cox (original guitarist) and David Steele (original bass) formed Fine Young Cannibals (with Roland Gift (vocals)). No wonder why I had trouble telling all these bands apart.
The current line-up for The English Beat is Wakeling (lead vocals/guitar), King Schascha (toasting), Brian ‘Nucci’ Cantrell (drums/vocals), Matt Moorish (sax/trombone/vocals), Kevin Lum (keyboards/vocals), Minh Quan (keyboards/vocals), and Brad Engstrom (bass/vocals). Schascha and Moorish have a tremendous amount of energy. Both were dancing around a lot but Schascha never stopped – he used the entire stage to dance, jump, swing his long braids around and around, encourage the crowd to yell and sing, and kept shouting out his love for Port Chester. He probably would have been better off shouting out his love for NY. I doubt there were too many people there who were actually from Port Chester. He caught one person taping and first told them not to view the concert through that small viewfinder but then told them to put it on Facebook live so everyone could see what a good time they were having. Schascha was showing off his very quick toasting skills and I was thinking that he should have taken over for Daveed Diggs (Hamilton) when rtb leaned over to me and said, “He should be the next Lafayette/Jefferson!”
They started right off with their cover of Prince Buster’s “Rough Rider.” We heard their hits plus they played General Public’s “Tenderness” and their cover of The Staple Singers “I’ll Take You There.” Wakeling said it’s not a party until someone ruins a perfectly good Motown song before playing “Tears of a Clown” (Smokey Robinson and the Miracles). “Save It for Later” was introduced as Wakeling’s favorite Pete Townshend song (Townshend actually covered The Beat). Wakeling added a little Tom Petty ‘freefalling’ (just the one word) to a musical section at the end. Their version of Andy Williams’ “Can’t Get Used to Losing You” was introduced with a “Andy is gone. Should I say it? Yes.” They said goodbye with their cover of Jamaica reggae band The Pioneers’ “Jackpot.” Wakeling left the stage shaking hands with the audience as Schascha introduced the band and then walked into the audience and then ran back on stage before he said his own goodbye.
The Tears of a Clown
Rude Boy Skank
Save It for Later
I’ll Take You There
Never Die (from new album out in 2017 but they’ve been playing it live for years)
The Love You Give Lasts Forever (from new album out in 2017)
Can’t Get Used to Losing You
Ranking Full Stop/Mirror in the Bathroom
After the stage was cleared of The English Beat’s instruments, a voice came over the sound system asking us not to ruin our enjoyment of the show by watching through our phones. Then on the screen at the back of the stage Squeeze was introduced (first names only): Glenn (Tilbrook) on guitar and lead vocals; Chris (Difford) on guitar and vocals and bringing refreshments through the audience at the break; Lucy (Shaw) on bass and we are to follow only her instructions; Simon (Hanson) on drums; Stephen (Large) on keyboards; and Melvin (Duffy) on pedal steel guitar. Duffy also played electric guitar and mandolin. Large also played a melodica, which allowed him to dance around the stage and he played an accordion for “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.” Tilbrook played the ukulele on three songs (“From the Cradle to the Grave,” “Harper Valley PTA,” and “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.”)
Videos played throughout the night on the screen and on the walls of the theater. Some of the videos were specific to the song and the images matched the lyrics. For “Cool for Cats” the video was shots of newspaper headlines with words that matched the lyrics. “Tempted” had shots of different fruits (and some vegetables) cut open. Because of the videos having to sync up exactly with the songs, there wasn’t any room for improvisation. And it looks like the set list was the same for every night of the tour. Tilbrook might introduce a song but mostly they played one song after another. “From the Cradle to the Grave,” which is the title song of the album they’re supporting, probably was my favorite video of the night. It was a band onstage playing the song shown as children, 30-somethings, and seniors. Another fun video was for “Cool for Cats,” which not only had the newspaper headlines but also photos of the band in their younger days and one news story about a 14-year-old Glenn who was out of school for a month because he wanted to save his locks and not cut his hair. “Happy Days” had the band playing on a rooftop (that had them climbing up a ladder) like The Beatles’ last concert.
As always, Tilbrook blew me away with his guitar playing. He really is one of the best guitarists I’ve ever seen. And Difford’s lyrics are some of the best songwriting of my generation. All the musicians were given a chance to shine with solos, especially in “Black Coffee in Bed.” We got to hear many of their hits, some new songs, and three covers – The Easybeats’ “Friday On My Mind,” Tom T. Hall’s “Harper Valley PTA” (made famous by Jeannie C. Riley), and Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan’s “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.” For “Goodbye Girl,” Tilbrook let us sing ‘goodbye girl’ every time it comes up in the song. “Only 15” may have sounded vaguely creepy when they were 20-something. Now it sounds very creepy being sung by a 50-something even if the character is the same age as the girl. After everyone was on their feet and yelling for an encore, the band played “Snap, Crackle and Pop,” which was a strange choice because it made the audience sit down. At the end, during the band introductions, Tilbrook introduced Difford as “my old mate.” Difford did the same for Tilbrook. They hugged and kissed before the band took a bow.
A Squeeze concert is a non-stop dance party with an occasional chance to catch your breath. Since we know all the words to the hits, it would have been nice if they’d given us more of a chance to participate, but the need to sync to the videos made that difficult. But I have nothing negative to say about an evening with Difford and Tilbrook.
Is That Love?
Another Nail in My Heart
Friday on My Mind
Cool for Cats
Slap and Tickle
Cradle to the Grave
Harper Valley PTA
I Don’t Wanna Grow Up
If I Didn’t Love You
Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)
Up the Junction
Snap, Crackle and Pop
Black Coffee in Bed
Take Me I’m Yours
The bad thing about going to a show at the Capitol Theatre is that the trains after 10pm run once an hour and, since we’re usually not out until after 11pm, it means getting a train after 12am and then the subway home, which means getting home at almost 3am. The fun thing last night was seeing a pickup truck and a crane roll by with special wheels on the tracks. But that didn’t make up for the late train and the long ride home.
By Carene Lydia Lopez