Back in November last year I watched Squeeze give what I termed on these pages “a masterclass”. It underlined how good the band are, how well Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook can use words. Here, a few months later, Glenn Tillbrook underlines another one of my long held beliefs – namely that a brilliant song can translate into any medium.
Tilbrook is fabulous here, and you could say its easy when your set includes “Pulling Mussels (From A Shell)” or “Cradle To The Grave”, but its more than that. It’s about the warmth and fun that he displays in his hour here.
His choice of covers is interesting. In lockdown he did a cover a week and “My Boy Lollipop” was one (“it came out in 1964 when I was seven,” he offers, “and I thought it was about actual lollipops”) that and The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” wasn’t what was expected.
At that show in November it surprised how good a guitar player Tilbrook was, and he shows that here by melding “Black Coffee In Bed” and “Slap And Tickle” in a style similar to which Billy Bragg always calls “chop and clang”. There’s a “banger” in Tilbrook’s words with the always brilliant “Up The Junction” and as “Tempted” and “Goodbye Girl” end this, it is inescapable that although he tends to go under the radar a little, then Glenn Tilbrook is a national treasure.
On the 22nd February 2022, King King played Birmingham Town Hall. It was a rather emotional night for me. I called it “the best gig since they resumed” and furthermore added: “And on reflection this simply has to be the best and most natural that King King have ever been”.
Fast forward 13 months and they are back – and with exactly the same line up, a rarity in KK world – and they always look like the happiest people in the world when they are on any stage. The sheer glee with which they arrive and join in with “Highway To Hell” tells you that there’s nowhere they’d rather be even if they had a “bumpy” journey here.
They are a rock band these days, in the main. We can argue about it, but listen to “Dance Together”, or the other two that open the show “Long Time Running” and “Heed The Warning” all from the more recent end of their career, and its plain as day that this is one of the best hard rock bands anywhere.
The addition of Stevie Nimmo has helped with that, giving the likes of “By Your Side” a harder edge than work before. He and brother Alan play a solo In this one and on my notes I wrote simply “Thunder”. I’d seen them open for Thunder years ago and the both the Nimmo’s sat a couple of seats away during the headline set, and sang every word. That love shines through.
“Lose Control” goes right back to the debut, but is very much played by this band. And by the way, what a band this is. Andrew Scott on drums is a revelation, Jonny Dyke is as good a keyboard player as they’ve ever had and Zander Greenshields – a long standing cohort of the Nimmo’s – is perfect on bass.
All of which means, whether they play new or old material, it sounds superb, but sounds like this version of the band are playing it. “Long History Of Love” is still the centrepoint, though, but “Whatever It Takes To Survive” (dedicated to the aforementioned Thunder’s Danny Bowes) and a glorious singalong of “You Stopped The Rain” (first played in this very room and MV was there) pull together the full spectrum of their sound.
There’s no doubt what the anthem is. “Rush Hour” is mighty too, “I Will Not Fall” is another choice one from 2020’s “Maverick” and Alan Nimmo plays that solo for “Stranger To Love” and the silence that descends when the amps go off is one of reverence to one of the best.
They come back (“I dunno why I walked down those stairs, I didn’t need it, it’s one of those days” jokes the frontman) with a stunning version of Clapton’s “Old Love” and the other Nimmo, Stevie is at his best here.
That sums it up in a way. The Nimmo brothers are supremely talented in their own right. Collectively they are unstoppable. King King are ever evolving by their very nature, but they’ve never been better than they are right now.