Thursday was Christmas Karaoke Circus, although the Yuletide theme was not always that apparent, especially when Robin Ince took to the stage to sing the deeply unfestive Mercy Seat by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. This was evened out, however, by sketch group Pappy's enveloping themselves in wrapping paper, spraying each other in silly string, handing out party poppers and singing I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day by way of a lovely, messy finale. Along the way, we had some big old power ballads - Against All Odds and I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing - from members of the audience, but, as is often the case, the night was well and truly stolen by Kevin Eldon and Chris Addison, who sang I Am The Walrus and the marvellous Centerfold (wouldn't have known the name, certainly knew the tune). Too much fun.
Along with ELO, Blood, Sweat and Tears, The Beatles, several 60s collections and, oddly, Cher, Squeeze regularly featured on the Lowmans' car stereo during long journeys when I was younger, and so it's no wonder that their songs have a rather dear place in my heart. My admiration for the band has only grown over time, however, and so I was pretty darn excited to go and see them at the HMV Forum, a venue that lies literally about 90 seconds' walk from my flat. Nice, too, that The Lightning Seeds were supporting, a band that clearly have a similar philosophy when it comes to songwriting as Messers Difford and Tolbrook, and who were more than happy to do the big singles - Pure, Life of Riley, Sugar Coated Iceberg, and my particular favourite Lucky You.
The main act came on, bizarrely, to a hiphop track, and this theme was picked up a little later when they band performed a little streetdance type thing - I'm guessing it's some in-joke... an in-joke that I'm not in on. Odd choreographed moments aside, this was a set again packed with the big hits. Go on, name one, I bet they played it. Tempted? Yup, closed the main set with it. Black Coffee In Bed? Opened the show. Slap and Tickle, Another Nail In My Heart, Pulling Mussels? All formed the encore. And yes, Cool For Cats, Goodbye Girl and the sublime Up The Junction were all in there too.
It has to be said that these songs are so brilliantly, tightly written that they do not necessarily gain a whole lot from being played live, but that isn't to say that it's not a joy to completely wear your voice out singing along to those fabulous choruses - with Chris Difford's amazing storytelling lyrics and Glenn Tilbrook's wonderful tunes (and still-brilliant voice, of course). The very notable exception is Slap and Tickle though, which saw Tilbrook violently pound a keyboard for those opening chords and has that great, heavy section for 'if you ever change your mind...' It was made to be played live. Otherwise, this was a generous, fun performance that was just another piece of evidence in the file marked 'Squeeze are a brilliant but underrated band.'