It’s starting to feel a little different up at Red Butte Garden lately. The temperature is getting a little cooler, and the wind is whipping a little more. Fall is near. What isn’t different is the continued excellence in the quality of the bands and their performances. The 2021 Red Butte Garden Outdoor Concert Series has been fantastic so far and with the shows, they have lined up to finish out the series, it’s only going to get better. The home stretch started on Thursday, September 2 with 80s and New Wave icons, Squeeze. With Colin Hay of Men at Work fame supporting. While these two bands may have made their mark in the great era of 80s music, neither has slowed down by any means.
THE NOMADBAND TOUR
Before things were able to get going, there was a flash rainstorm. For a minute there I and many fans began to worry that we might be in a similar situation as we were a little while back. A huge flash rainstorm came in and about washed us all away and ended up forcing the cancellation of the Drive-By Truckers show. Fortunately, this storm was not as vicious or lengthy. It merely caused a delay in admitting the fans into the venue and the start time of the show. The passing storm was however, replaced by clear skies! It feels like it’s been forever since the Salt Lake Valley has seen a crisp clear sky. With all the fires in Northern California, our air quality has not been great, and the skies have been smokey. So it was nice to look up and see blue.
As soon as the patrons appeared settled, Colin Hay and his band took the stage. This felt quite different because usually, the audience has been socializing, eating, and drinking sometimes for hours before the show begins. Nevertheless, Colin Hay was here and that stuff was put aside fairly quickly for this musical icon. It was clear right off the bat that while Squeeze was the headliner of this show, a large number of the audience was either there specifically to see Colin or were excited to be seeing both. He received a generous reception throughout his set.
Colin Hay did a great job of mixing in his solo work with songs from where many know him from, his band Men at Work. Songs like “Come Tumblin’ Down” and “Can’t Take This Town” were as enjoyable to me as almost any other song in his set. Hay has some excellent songs from his solo career. I would encourage anyone to take a listen.
When Hay played, “Who Can It Be Now”, it was understandable that the audience would raise their level of energy and many of them would rise to their feet. It was a number 1 hit in the U.S. It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t know that song. It was fun to hear, and fun to look in the crowd and see the reaction on people’s faces when the saxophone intro began. They were delighted. Hay joked when the song finished that he would be playing some Men at Work songs because “Some people just come for the hits. Otherwise, they just stare.”
Colin shared with the audience that he had recently released a covers album titled, I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, after the Dusty Springfield song. He mentioned that it felt like there was a time when Dusty was always on the charts. He then performed that song. When I got home from the concert I listened to the whole album. He has a lot of very recognizable songs, but they sound like Colin Hay songs. It’s definitely worth a listen.
Colin Hay told us that he used to work in a music shop growing up. He said that he loved when new music would come in. Especially when it was The Kinks. That brought a cheer from the audience. Hay said that he can’t think of a better pop song than this one. He then proceeded to perform The Kinks classic, “Waterloo Sunset”.
Hay followed those covers with what might be my favorite Men at Work song, “It’s a Mistake”. It appeared my sentiment was shared by many in the crowd. More and more had found their way out of their lawn chairs and were dancing and clapping to another top ten hit. There’s such a nostalgic feeling to these Men at Work songs, but they were so well written that they don’t feel stuck in the decade we first heard them.
I was really happy to hear “Waiting For My Real Life to Begin”. It’s my favorite song Colin Hay song. It was a beautiful time of day for him to perform the thoughtful piece. The wind was blowing, the sun was setting, and the audience was swaying. Again, his voice sounded excellent. His guitar playing was on point as well. It was a perfect moment in the set. The audience was locked in and really admiring this talented artist who has been in our lives for four decades now.
Colin finished with a bang. Hay and his extremely talented band performed three huge Men at Work songs to close the set. He played “Overkill” which I realized is definitely my favorite Men at Work song. This got the entire audience up. And if any others were lingering in their seats, “Down Under” definitely got them up. You would have thought this was the end of the whole show! We still had Squeeze coming out. But people were into it and were not holding back.
The set ended with “Be Good Johnny”. He exited to a roaring audience. It was a really enjoyable well-rounded set. His voice sounds just like you remember it. It’s remarkable really. He can hit the high notes, and all. I was so impressed with his vocals and the talent of his band.
For more information on Colin Hay or to listen to I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself go to, colinhay.com
Before Squeeze took the stage I noticed how dark it had already become. Another sign that Summer is about over and Fall is near. I have to admit, I’m looking forward to Fall.
Squeeze took to the stage waving to the crowd. They picked up their instruments and off they went. Squeeze blazed through their first three songs. They opened with “Footprints”, “Big Ben”, and “Hourglass”. One song transitioned into the next. I was in the midst of taking photos, but I tried to look at the crowd to see their reaction. They seemed so eager to applaud that when Squeeze finished “Hourglass” it felt like there was an exhale of applause. Squeeze was back in Utah and the audience seemed so happy about it!
Squeeze didn’t bask in the cheers for too long before they dove back into the music with the great, “Pulling Mussels ( From the Shell). I’m always surprised that this song appears so early in the set for Squeeze. It’s one of their biggest hits. Arguably their second biggest hit. Regardless of when it shows up in the show, it gets the crowd excited. Everyone was really fired up and into the show just four songs in.
I guess this concert lineup was put together with the intention of including voices that don’t age. Like Colin Hay, Glenn Tilbrook sounded just as he has on even the earliest of Squeeze recordings. Perhaps it’s his unique vocal stylings, or maybe he’s worked hard to preserve his voice. Whatever it is, I loved hearing him singing in top form. It makes a difference in these songs.
In one of the few audience interactions, Glen shared with the crowd that their album East Side Story was turning 40 years old. To celebrate they played six songs from the album largely produced by Elvis Costello. Songs like “Mumbo Jumbo”, “Labelled With Love” “F-Hole”, and “Is That Love” I’m sure brought back fond memories of fans purchasing East Side Story and listening to all these tracks for the first time. Tilbrook shared with me that Squeeze would be playing some songs from “left field”. I’m sure some of the deeper cuts from this album were in part what he was referencing.
Of course the biggest hit from this album, and arguably Squeeze’s biggest hit, “Tempted” was a big highlight of the show. The song originally sung by Paul Carrack, was performed by Glenn Tilbrook. I’m not sure if everyone feels this way, but I prefer Tilbrook’s version. Carrack was in the group for such a short time that it’s weird for him to have the biggest hit. It almost doesn’t sound like a Squeeze song until Glenn sings it. Don’t get me wrong, Paul Carrack has an amazing voice and he does the song more than justice. And who’s to say if he hadn’t sung it if it would have been the massive hit it became. But for me, I really liked hearing Glenn sing it. The crowd sang and clapped along. It was a great moment in the show.
I feel like once they got through “Tempted”, Squeeze really hit their stride and the audience met their energy song for song. One of my favorite Squeeze songs, “Take Me I’m Yours” got the crowd moving. I love Tilbrook’s higher vocals with Chris Difford taking the lower register as they sing simultaniously. The song comes from their self titled 1978 debut album. It’s very post-punk, with early signs of what would become New Wave. It was at this point that I was reminded just how amazing Glenn Tilbrook is at guitar. He had some solos that blew me away.
Of course, they didn’t stop there. Difford took the lead vocals for “Cool For Cats”. This song feels very very 80s but it’s again very post-punk, future New Wave with almost a Ska beat. A lot of songs have this formula now, but when it came out it was probably the first of its kind. It’s a fun song to bop around to and the crowd was doing just that. Many were singing the cat-like “ooohs” with the rest of the band.
As the set moved along, I noticed in the distance some lightning flashes. At first, they seemed to be really far away, but as the concert was heading towards its pinnacle, the flashes of lighting moved ever closer. In some ways, it looked really cool. As if it were a part of the lighting effects of the show. But I have to say, the closer it got, I grew a little nervous. On two counts. One I was of course concerned that someone would get hit by a lightning bolt. But I was also nervous that Squeeze wouldn’t be able to finish their set.
As Squeeze fired up the audience with “Goodbye Girl” and Annie Get Your Gun” to close out their main set, I feared someone from Red Butte Garden to come out and tell us that they couldn’t finish the show due to the lightning. But instead, Squeeze made their way back out and the audience, either oblivious to the lightning or unconcerned, went crazy for the return.
Squeeze played “Wicked and Cruel” to start their encore. I saw some people standing next to me and look at each other and high five. I could tell they did not expect to hear this but were elated to be hearing it live.
The final two songs were so good. “If I Didn’t Love You” and another fan favorite, “Black Coffee in Bed” had the audience battling the lightning storm for who could produce the most energy. It was neck and neck! People were dancing and having such a good time. In many ways, I felt like I was taken back in time to an 80s dance club. People were breaking out some really fun moves. Particularly with, “Black Coffee in Bed.” It’s got a Motown beat with a New Wave twist. How can you go wrong?
This incredible band had their moment in the encore to have their own solos. Stephen Large dazzled on the keys, while Steve Smith pounded the percussions, delighting the crowd. By the way, I had no idea that Squeeze’s Steve Smith, is The Steve Smith from Dirty Vegas. You know the song, “Days Go By” circa 2001? That’s him. Pretty cool. Anyway, he seamlessly handing things off to Simon Hanson on drums. The mohawked drummer then turned things over to Melvin Duffy on peddle and lap steel guitar. Even bassist Owen Biddle got a solo. You don’t get to hear a bass solo too often. I’m glad we got this one.
When the show finished, the band walked to the front of the stage and waved to the adoring audience. Glenn Tilbrook thanked the crowd and told us that the evening had been “Absolutely Amazing.” I couldn’t agree more!
Squeeze recorded the concert for those who want to relisten to it. I love when bands do this. To get this recording head squeezeofficial.com
Reviewed by Kevin Rolfe