The possessor of a very fine high tenor voice as well as being a talented guitarist, Tilbrook’s songwriting partnership with Chris Difford reached its apotheosis on the Elvis Costello-produced East Side Story album, but the back catalogue of the band stretches far beyond that.
Recently reconstituted (although without long-standing drummer Gilson Lavis, who continues to work with original keyboard player Jools Holland), Squeeze have re-recorded their hits on the Spot the Difference album, and there are plans (although not terribly advance ones) for a new album. But Tilbook has hardly been idle between times. He has made solo discs and formed a band, The Fluffers, whose album included contributions from Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis. His own solo tours have included a renowned “human jukebox” segment where he performs whatever song the audience requests. Most recently he has been working with garage rhythm and blues outfit Nine Below Zero under the joint banner The Co-Operative, recordings of which have yet to see the light of day.
Some of those songs, however, feature on his current acoustic tour, for he has assembled yet another band. “I need to change and I enjoy doing that,” he explains. “So this is an acoustic show that is more structured.”
In fact it has ended up working chronologically through his oeuvre, but that was more by accident than design – a consequence of starting with a solo set and then adding colleagues Simon Hanson (of the current Squeeze line up and the Fluffers) and Chris McNally. The inspiration for the nature of the evening came from a meeting with his guest on this tour, Steve Poltz, in Chicago. Tilbrook was impressed by the pocket technology Poltz used to make his live shows immediately available to the audience on CD, so that is the deal on this long tour: every evening’s show will be there to buy, take home and relive later at the end of the night.
Appropriately, then, one of the songs guaranteed an airing is the very early Squeeze hit Take Me I’m Yours. For this Tilbrook has embraced yet more new technology, in the shape of a tablet computer. “I’m not a Luddite, but it has pulled me up how much you can do on an i-Pad – the technology is moving on at such a pace. It is not gimmicky, but genuinely a great instrument. The apps available are fantastic and it is responsive to play.
“In 1978 when we recorded Take Me I’m Yours it cost us £400 to hire in a Mellotron and a bloke who knew how to go it. Now I have a £13 app, and I can solo on it, and there really is no compromise in the sound.”
With a mix of i-Pads and guitars, Indian harmonium, ukulele and hand percussion, the Tilbrook & Co acoustic tour is yet another new direction from a musician who has never stood still. Some fans, however, will still be anxious to hear when new Difford and Tilbrook songs might be available. It might be wise for them not to hold their breath.
“When Squeeze folded we had become fossilised, but lately it has been like the early days again playing those songs. But we’ve written just one new song together, so at that rate there will be a new album in 2030. Someone needs to light a fire underneath us when Chris and I get back together in January and February.”
Glenn Tilbrook is at the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, tonight; the Continental Cafe, Gourock, on Thursday and Glasgow’s King Tut’s on Saturday.