SQUEEZE & PSYCHEDELIC FURS LIVE AT THE GRAND OLE OPRY
Squeeze & The Psychedelic Furs
Live at The Grand Ole Opry
September 22, 2023 Review by Traci Turner
Two iconic ‘80s bands are headed to SoCal next month and – I cannot stress this enough – you are legally required to attend. The Psychedelic Furs and Squeeze brought their monster classics, new favorites, and distinctive voices to the legendary Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, and we enjoyed every minute.
The Grand Ole Opry House – complete with its famous six-foot circle of oak center stage – hosts the weekly radio program “The Grand Ole Opry,” plus most of the major country events in Nashville, along with various concerts of other genres, case in point this evening. The show began with lights spiraling across the darkened stage until The Psychedelic Furs walked out. Applause filled the room, but ramped up when Furs front-man Richard Butler appeared onto the legendary Opry stage. Looking very dapper in his suit, he gave a bow, they began “Into You Like a Train,” and that unmistakable voice filled the room.
September 17, 2023
Butler was engaging and charming – shaking hands with anyone who walked up to the stage – but spoke little to keep their full set going. He would often give a chuckle and “Thank you” after a song, sometimes with a cheeky bow. Butler, along with his brother Tim on bass, Rich Good on guitar, and sax genius Mars Williams made full use of the stage – which has no front barrier – and got up close with fans. Sadly, keyboardist Amanda Kramer and drummer Zachary Alford had to stay at their posts.
The crowd was appreciative of all of the songs, but of course went big for the well-known classics. I appreciated how few phones were out; people were just enjoying the music, dancing, singing, watching the Furs show off their skills.
The outstanding horn work of Williams (who also looked so badass in his leather ensemble with black hat) and fantastic drumming of Alford were standouts, but truly, the whole band sounded amazing.
“Heaven” garnered a huge response and the energy from the band and crowd at its end made it feel like it was a finale. “Wrong Train” showed off Butler’s powerful vocals in a way we don’t often get to hear, and the song’s ending displayed a vulnerability that impressed me. Yes, singers are used to it, but it always blows me away when someone sings with no music – just their voice in a crowded room – almost as if they are naked and exposing everything to thousands of people. It terrifies me! Well, Butler crushed it.
Butler moved across the stage throughout the set, giving little jumps, skips, and lots of handshakes. He would hang casually on other band members and was rarely still, except when his bandmates performed solos, then he would step back and allow them to shine.
After the politically charged “President Gas,” it was time for “The Ghost in You” which saw Butler singing to the women in the front row, and they ate it up. Of course, the crowd went bananas for “Pretty in Pink” and Butler sang it with such energy, it made it new (at least, for me).
They ran through “No‐One,” “This’ll Never Be Like Love,” and “Sister Europe” before getting to “Heartbeat,” which featured some more phenomenal horn work from Williams and earned him hearty applause. The megahits “Love My Way” and “Heartbreak Beat” wrapped their set and Butler said “Thank you” ever-so-politely, and skipped off the stage. How does he make skipping look elegant?
While they may not get through their 15-song setlist at Darker Waves in November, when they play with Squeeze in October, you should get it in full.
I was very fortunate to speak with Squeeze founder and guitarist Glenn Tilbrook recently and when I asked how this tour came about, he said, “It sounded like a really good pairing and we’re looking for that at the moment. The last lot of touring we did with Daryl Hall and John Oates, and that was an amazing tour. I think that you’re looking to hook up with people who wouldn’t necessarily just come and see either band, but the package is good, so it’s good for both of us. I think musically, it will be a good match.” It proved to be right!
Not to be outdone in the dressed sharp and looking dapper department, Squeeze hit the stage and Tilbrook said, “It’s really great to be here.” They kicked it off with “Take Me I’m Yours” and the crowd was clapping along, giving some good vibes. We were given a “Thank you lovelies” by Tilbrook at the song’s end.
Following the Furs’ example of “little talk, more music,” Squeeze jumped right into “Hourglass,” which featured an awesome guitar solo from Tilbrook. For some reason, with him being such a charming Brit, watching him rip a wicked guitar solo while wearing a suit was unexpected. Honestly, the whole band was phenomenal: professional, perfection, precision. Those were the words that kept coming to mind. They were having fun, but they were also prepared to dazzle their fans, and they did.
They played one of my favorite tunes, “Up the Junction,” then Squeeze’s other founder, Chris Difford spoke up, “It’s a great honor, Nashville. Thank you for coming to see us.” Difford sang “Here Comes That Feeling,” his first vocal duty of the night, but Tilbrook handled most of the songs. “If I Didn’t Love You” and “Another Nail in My Heart” were two more crowd favorites that had fans dancing.
A brief slow down with “Vanity Fair” gave way to the chaotic fun that was ahead. Tilbrook stated, “This is called ‘Slap & Tickle’ and it might get your asses going,” which it did. With strobe lights, insane keyboard work from Stephen Large, and excellent drumming from Simon Hanson, this was a highlight of the show. Seriously, this Squeeze track was never on my radar, and now, I want to watch a video of the performance repeatedly.
Tilbrook and Difford shared vocals on “Electric Trains,” which also had Melvin Duffy showing off his pedal steel guitar skills. In Nashville, especially at the Opry, this is a bold move. Duffy nailed it.
“Goodbye Girl” offered another entertaining sing-along and Hanson was tossing various percussion instruments to Steve Smith, the other percussionist, continuing the party vibe. Large stepped away from his keyboards to encourage the crowd to dance, and the audience willingly obeyed.
The hit parade was in full force now: “Annie Get Your Gun” was followed by “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell),” which had another fantastic Tilbrook solo. He then started “Tempted” alone on his electric guitar, performing as if it were acoustic. Gradually, the song ramped up and the band joined in towards the end, the fans singing along the way.
Difford was up front again for “Cool for Cats” before a pumped-up version of “Black Coffee in Bed” led to band introductions with each giving a solo showcase. Melvin Duffy shredded on the pedal steel guitar. Ok, I don’t know if you are technically shredding on a pedal steel, but if not, he was the first. Displaying all the best in dancing skills and looking as if he was manning the Enterprise,
Stephen Large made me speechless with his keyboard abilities. No band is complete without some thumping bass and Owen Biddle gave us plenty. Handling the bongos and every other percussion instrument I do not know the name of, Steve Smith let his hands – and elbows! – fly across the skins. And finally, Simon Hanson was in control of the regular ole drum kit, plus a few other nifty noisemakers. Not a bad musician in the bunch!
With introductions and solos complete, “Is That Love” included some very loud crowd singing and gave way to a reprise of “Black Coffee in Bed” to conclude their 17-song set. Squeeze said farewell and disappeared into the night.
While I rarely have a bad time at a show, I REALLY enjoyed the atmosphere of this one. Both bands gave their all, seemed happy to be there, and did not rest on their classics to carry them through. I – a Gen X – attended the show with a Boomer and a Gen Z, and we all thought it was fantastic, so now you can see why your attendance is legally required.
Catch The Psychedelic Furs + Squeeze tour in San Diego on October 9th at The Sound, and Los Angeles on October 13th at The Greek Theatre.