Glenn Tilbrook has dubbed his current tour “The Happy Trails Tour,” and based on his recent L.A. show it is an appropriate name. It’s not that he simply played peppy uptempo tunes (or old Roy Rogers songs, for that matter) but he exhibited a joyfulness in his performances that left everyone going home happy. As the once and still occasional Squeeze frontman, he has played far larger stages during his long career, so a small club gig could have led him to just dash off a set of crowd-pleasing greatest hits. Instead, Tilbrook, in his two-part set, delivered a delightfully casual and charming show that felt like he was playing for you and friends in a living room.
Without a new CD to plug, Tilbrook has a freedom of playing what inspired him – whether it was an old Squeeze classic, a deep album cut, a song from his solo career, an audience request or a favorite cover (like his splendid version of the soul nugget “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do).)” Not surprisingly, however, the old Squeeze hits, like “Is That Love,” “Tempted” and “Pulling Mussels From A Shell,” drew the strongest reactions. His solo, acoustic rendition of the country-flavored “Labelled Of Love” actually improved upon the Squeeze’s studio version.
The song also was a good example of how Tilbrook’s vocals still hold the sweet warmth of his Squeeze’s heyday, although other times, his voice showed a little wear and tear. The show’s informal structure – sometimes he played on his own and sometimes with multi-instrumentalist Chris McNall and poly-percussionist Simon Hanson (who drums in the current Squeeze incarnation) – also let him loosened some of the songs’ arrangements, allowing him to showcase his often-overlooked guitar-playing.
Ever the cordial host, Tilbrook let McNall and Hanson each sing a tune, and Tilbrook did a credible job behind the drum kit while Hanson sang his fun ditty “Kevin and Dave.” He also pulled sometime collaborator Chris Braide out of the crowd to play with him for a couple tunes (including the Beatles’ “One After 909”). Braide and opening act Joe Michelini (from the band River City Extension) later joined Tilbrook and his band for an exhilarating encore. In fact, Michelini’s energy and fun interplay with Tilbrook gave an extra jolt to “Take Me I’m Yours” and “Goodbye Girl,” making one think it might be interesting to see those two play together more.