Review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown and photography by Ken Harrison

Well on an autumn’s Saturday evening you can always curl up in front of the tele and be ‘tempted’ to watch The Doctor. Well tonight, it’s a twist on the theme as we head to Symphony Hall to see The Doctor of poetry, and those with a lyrical disposition to indeed be ‘Tempted’. Welcome Birmingham to Dr John Cooper Clarke, our literary accompaniment to Squeeze.

So as we take to the seats, with a banner covering the instruments to the following act, on come the legendary Doctor Clarke. Tonight’s we get a ‘greatest hit’s of his lyrical works. “Evening” as he sets off on his tale – too late to leave  ‘The Guest List’ “kill ‘em to buy a ticket” as he leads into the faced paced rendition of everyone he knows,  names rhyming. He’s still the chairman of the board, dressed in top to tail in black, blackened hair spiked, darkened glasses.

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He’s going all existentialist  – “How deep would the sea be if there weren’t any sponges?’ he quips. “How did you het here Doctor Clarke?” he rhetorically asks – a journey through life to birth, or a rental car. The later indeed as we’re into ‘Hire Car.’  Apparently he’s been putting on the pounds (erm maybe – he raisins still thin) – but it’s a leader – to recant in full on observational vitriol as only Dr Clarke can do – ‘ Get Back On The Drugs You Fat F**k’ . He’s funny and whitty and fast paced and flies off at tangents – continually challenging, asking questions, pointing out the bleeding obvious.

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His spoken words morphs from comedic story into his observational poetry. “Sometimes less is more.” He met the Dalai Lama at Glastonbury this year – he too is the “king of minimalism” as he gives us his take on the poetry of the limerick. He’s he to plug a box set – his anthology of 35 years – a “yuletide stocking filler.” He’d get a copy if he was us. So from his back catalogue ‘Beasley Street’ – a real life place and it’s social life to part II –  ‘Beasley Boulevard’ – all ‘Urban Splash!’ “Age. The silent killer” – he’s been around our entire lives, before ‘Bed Blocker Blues.’ None know’s the three benefits of Alzheimer’s : 1. You can hide your own Easter eggs; 2. You meet new people every day; 3. You can hide your own Easter eggs.

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His love story in reverse ’T**t’  – and the quips, irony and lyrical view on life keep coming.  And he completes with his personal favourite – the classic ‘Chickentown’ – used in the penultimate episode of the Sopranos. When played on the BBC in ’78 the bleep operators got repetitive strain injury. Before thanks to the Arctic Monkeys, who closed their critically acclaimed album AM with a version of  ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ which we receive the Doctor Clarke version – in it’s full and scathing and dark glory.

And so to a break – before next up – Squeeze – the lyrical wordsmiths of their day. ~In the day they  turned out hit after hit – the lyrics such that these Difford and Tilbrook were hailed the Lennon and McCartney of their generation. The chap who played the keyboards tottered off on his own journey of ‘The Tube’ and ‘Later..’ and jazz, while Squeeze became these core duo and a rotating shift of other musicians.

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Tonight’ set is the old and the new – classic smatterings of the band at their lyrical best. And there is a long setlist. To a big cheer they set off on their musical road trip with ‘Hourglass.’  And to accompany their musical journey, comes white videos on a large screen behind as an audio-visual accompaniment.

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A song from “twenty years ago” “Electric Trains’ – before one from the newbie “Cradle to the Grave.’ On their social media feed they are lobbying for a top ten album (remarkably they’re never had one) follow the hashtag #SqueezeTopTenCampaign and ever better go and buy and make their dreams come true. With a discography as long as your arm, the tracks roll and roll – and it’s the hits that are stand out as we sing along to ‘Labelled With Love.’ I saw Difford and Tilbrook in November – all acoustic and chatty. This is full band and far less chat – tonight is all about the music. ‘Goodbye Girl’ jams on down (as Twitter tells me goodbye boys  –  England have screwed up their Rugby World Cup chances. Oh. Time to move allegiances then.)

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Song titled from the recent BBC series ‘Cradle to the Grave’ their recent outing and of course the album the be promoting tonight. And another hit smattered video-wise with fruit ‘Tempted’  as they are “Tempted by the fruit of another, Tempted but the truth is discovered…” we sing.

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And another one ‘Pulling Muscles (From a Shell)’ – acronyms word as the video shows someone pushing a trolley round a supermarket. And our dirty minds do the work as into the trolley  goes a cucumber, baby lotion, tissue, vodka, ladies bra, a cheese-grater???.

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And now the lass from Clapham as we sing along to ‘Up the Junction.’  Quick break and encore – includes of course, ‘Cooooolllllll for Cats’ and the end –  ‘Take Me I’m Yours.’

Well a throughly enjoyable night.  Doctor Clarke – part poet, part stand up. And still wholly relevant. The lyrical and musical prowess of the chaps from Squeeze. This odd couple of acts, made us smile, made us sing, and gave us a complete package on their view of life and society. Thanks all.  And as we leave, the chaps from Squeeze may be there a while – they’re up for signing stuff.And the queues are long……


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