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Concert Review: Squeeze and Aimee Mann at Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, IL, August 31, 2008

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Children of the 80s cheered on 80's new-wave band Squeeze as they semi-reunited for a special show August 31 at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, IL. The “semi-reunion” featured two original members: founders Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford, backed by Tilbrook's current touring band. Often at odds, Tilbrook and Difford put aside their differences to show the audience why they are one of the best-and most underrated-songwriting duos of the 80s and 90s.

Sticking with mainly well-known material, Squeeze played blistering versions of “Another Nail in My Heart” and “Annie Get Your Gun,” with the duo jamming on a warp-speed rendition of “Hourglass.” Their quirkier songs — punctuated by Difford's unique bass voice — proved to be timeless in their eccentricity. “Cool for Cats” still amuses with its Casio-like keyboards. “I Think I'm Go Go” benefited from the band's backdrop: footage of the night sky continually soaring upward, projected on a huge screen behind them.

Judging from the crowd's enthusiastic reaction, Squeeze hardly needed any pyrotechnics. Audience members danced to infectious rockers like “Take Me I'm Yours” and swayed to the band's biggest hit, “Tempted” (originally sung by then-Squeeze member Paul Carrack, who later went for great success as a solo artist and member of Mike & The Mechanics). One could hear the nostalgia present in voices that sang all the lyrics to “Black Coffee in Bed” and “Pulling Mussels (From A Shell).” Still, Tilbrook and Difford nodded to their early days with the naughty “Slap and Tickle,” the familiar synthesizer riffs dominating the song.

 SqueezeThe truly remarkable element of this concert was that, despite Tilbrook's and Difford's squabbling (resulting in very sporadic Squeeze reunions and albums) and the passage of time (almost 25 years since they first formed), Squeeze sounded exactly as they do on record. Attending this concert amounted to traveling in a time warp. Still, the band's unique lyrics and distinctive sound transcend the decades, not becoming dated. Time was definitely an important factor in this show, as Tilbrook celebrated his 51st birthday onstage with Difford, the band, and of course numerous fans. True to form, after a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” and a special surprise — a group of dancing girls who presented him with a cake — Tilbrook immediately returned to the music, rocking the crowd with his loud guitar riffs and crystal-clear voice. While Tilbrook said little during this show, he appeared to enjoy the special occasion and sang terrific harmonies, taking the lead on few songs.

Overall, Squeeze proved that they can still play just as they did in 1980, and that their songs still stand out from the pack, with no other group able to reproduce their signature rock/new wave/punk sound. For one night, the “Hourglass” sands of time stood still on one beautiful summer night.

Opening for Squeeze was another 80s figure, former Til Tuesday frontwoman Aimee Mann. While she and her band hit the charts with “Voices Carry” in 1985, Mann has enjoyed vast critical acclaim since then. While Squeeze looked back, Mann largely celebrated her recent success. While her material may not be as famous as Squeeze's catalog, the audience cheered for familiar tunes like her Oscar-nominated song “Save Me” — from the film Magnolia — and the 1995 minor hit “That's Just What You Are.” Her voice remained undimmed, and her confidence onstage showed that she has — and never wil l— bow to commercial interests, preferring to forge her own critical path.

About Kit O'Toole