Chris Difford, singer, songwriter and founding member of the British group Squeeze celebrates the release of his autobiography with a short run of shows, Chris Difford: Some Fantastic Place, My Life In and Out of Squeeze.
Held at Assembly Checkpoint, the performance lends itself well to the cabaret setting and intimacy and the die-hard fans love the closeness to this icon singing the songs of their youth.
In this afternoon of stand-up, stories and songs covering his career over the last 45 years, he is joined by Boo Hewerdine, who accompanies him well on guitar and acts as the conduit for some of Difford’s rather crass jokes which nonetheless still get a laugh.
The show gets off to a slow start but finally warms up when he starts weaving his greatest hits from Squeeze in. There’s no shortage of audience participation, especially in the choruses although we leave the main singing to the master and fans aren’t left disappointed as we hear Take Me I’m Yours, Up The Junction, Goodbye Girl, Tempted, Pulling Mussels (From The Shell), and the song that did all the damage and paid for his first divorce, Cool For Cats. Even after 45 years, this diminutive figure still has a presence and a voice that would melt a thousand hearts, along with such a warm smile. There’s a real cheekiness to Difford’s storytelling, evidenced by the songwriting that still stands the test of time.
As a member of Squeeze, a band at the forefront of the 1970s new wave, Difford describes his unlikely rise to fame and fortune from working-class beginnings and how he dramatically lost it all again, courtesy of the excesses of the archetypal rock star, a career that his father prophesied would make him “an addict, an alcoholic and skint”. As Difford says “they all came true”. Squeeze notched up three top five hits and found fame on both sides of the Atlantic, but by 1997 the band was on the rocks and he was broke.
Difford also tells us how he managed Bryan Ferry, wrote with Elton John and survived the ups and downs of addiction. There’s a certain pathos to his story as he recounts the highs and successes that others he knew enjoyed including Blondie and even Mark Zuckerberg, but which seemed to have escaped him. “It’s all there in the book”, he tells us, giving a good reason to go and buy it.
A particularly touching part of the show was a song Glenn Tilbrook and Difford wrote for Maxine, Some Fantastic Place. Maxine was Glenn Tilbrook’s sweet angelic girlfriend when the pair first met, and helped glue the men’s friendship together for so long. Sadly, she died from leukemia shortly after he came out of rehab but she was such an optimist who helped him to see the good things in life that he dedicated his biography to her. “It’s got so many chords I can’t play it in this setting,” but Hewerdine and him make a good attempt at a version of it, which is touching and moving and a poignant end to this afternoon song.
If you enjoy words and song that have stood the test of time, an afternoon with Chris Difford and Boo Hewerdine will take you to “some fantastic place”.