The 80’s Come Alive At Salt Shed With Squeeze And The Psychedelic Furs
By: Amelia Rodriguez
It was quite a British night at the Salt Shed with Squeeze and The Psychedelic Furs uniting together to ignite the nostalgia of the 80s new wave. Currently on their United States fall tour, it was like stepping into a rainbow-lit time capsule upon entering the Salt Shed Sunday evening, with a well-matured crowd and not many teens or tweens to be detected.
The co-headliners both hailed from London and gave a contagious and electrifying performance, which lead to standing ovations at the end of each band’s set. With The Psychedelic Furs kicking things off, it took the crowd much longer to warm up to them than expected. I cannot help but wonder if it is due to the eccentric pairing. Perhaps if The Psychedelic Furs were joined by a band more similar to them in genre, like The Church, they’d be better appreciated.
The two performances were night and day. With Squeeze being the more pop-heavy band vs. Furs being the more art-rock band, it made for a healthy balance of new wave celebration. However, it was clear who the crowd was there for. The Psychedelic Furs released an album back in 2020, “Made of Rain,” their first since 1990, which was shared during their set opening for Squeeze.
As The Psychedelic Furs played some songs off their new album or some that were not as familiar as say “President Gas”, unfortunately, chatter and impatient movement rose amongst the crowd. All in all, I think they deserved much more attention than they were given throughout their set. Concentration and devotion were granted, however towards the end, when they played hit songs “Pretty In Pink,” “Heaven” and “Heartbreak Beat.” Lead Richard Butler sounded no different than he did in 1980 when their self-titled debut was released. Without him and The Psychedelic Furs, we’d have one less band to pay homage to for much of the alternative rock music we have today.
The very whimsical Amanda Kramer on the keyboard creates a transcendent soundscape that complements guitarist Rich Good’s wailing, and the perfect pairing of bassist Tim Butler’s groove. Along with the band was saxophonist Mars Williams, originally from Elmhurst, Illinois, who gave the audience everything he had from the very beginning. Swaying back and forth as he played a few other horn-like instruments, he carried many of The Psychedelic Furs’ songs into a frenzy of mystery and romance. He stood out over any other member and added bursts of thrill even when the crowd was less deserving of it.
Rich and Tim took turns getting their steps in, constantly sharing both sides of the stage. Besides some dancing, the Butler brothers shared moments as Richard would throw his arm around Tim’s shoulder. Richard would also comically bow and flip out his split back suit, and pose and lean on his mic stand while pretending to be tired periodically. As soon as he became comfortable while the instrumentals took over, he’d go right back to his cheeky hand gestures as he belted out song after song. Reaching peak sassiness while singing “Love My Way” and after many, many “Thank yous” followed by giggling, Richard Butler’s appreciation for the crowd displayed his joy for performing that evening.
Filled with charisma and endless amounts of true cheekiness, Squeeze gave us their all without missing a beat. A blazing start around 9:10, with the song “Take Me I’m Yours,” orchestrated how the rest of the night was going to go – swingingly, groovy, and playful. The crowd was quick to become active and never once tired out. Coming out on stage in some dashing attire, the drummer Simon Hanson was sporting a sleeveless, blue, pin-striped suit and pants, while steel guitarist Melvin Duffy, also in a striped suit, more resembling Beetlejuice. And, of course, Glenn Tillbrook wore a green plaid suit with an even brighter green polka dot shirt to accompany it.
Continuously slipping into jams, lead singer and guitarist Glenn Tilbrook took many opportunities to prove he still had it going on with soulful shredding during song breaks while the band followed suit. People danced and bopped up and down in place, waving their arms around as it became obvious that Squeeze was only there to play their very best classics like, “Up The Junction,” “Black Coffee In Bed,” and “Cool For Cats.” Just as The Psychedelic Furs had their saxophonist, Squeeze had Stephen Large, their otherworldly keyboard player. At times karate chopping the keys, swaying his body back and forth while pressing with all his might, Large brought us home numerous times and had us happily hypnotized.
As Tilbrook began serenading the audience with “Up The Junction,” it almost felt as though we were racing through the song, or maybe I did not want it to end so quickly. Songs like this showcase the amazing storytelling Tillbrook and Difford are capable of. When listening, they feel extremely simplistic, but with a bit more attentiveness, they come alive right in front of us. There was not a moment for chatter or anything other than dancing- if you had enough room in the sold-out venue.
During the very passionate “Black Coffee In Bed”, the backing vocals were performed by the rest of the band, almost sounding just like the originals of Paul Young and Elvis Costello. As Difford takes over with the most raspy, unique, and very British voice, “Cool For Cats” is in full swing as the crowd goes mad. The complex and rapid tune is no match for Difford as he conquers it once more in a familiar, dry tone.
Throughout the rest of the set, Squeeze flirted with the crowd with funky songs like “Slap & Tickle” and brought us all back together by letting the crowd sing the first chorus of “Tempted.” Purple lights lit up the interior, creating an emotional aura as voices lifted as one. “You sound amazing,” Tilbrook told the crowd as the band rejoined each other in carrying out the song.
By the end, the band members were finally introduced, some unfamiliar to the crowd as they joined as late as 2020, like bassist Owen Biddle and in 2017 with percussionist Steve Smith. They all got their turn playing a short solo, the highlights being Stephen Large’s ragtime tune and Steve Smith’s exotic bongo interlude. They rang out their last moments with a brief call and response accompanied by the bands jamming, chanting, “We love The Psychedelic Furs, ohhh” and finally, with collapsing breath, “Black coffee in bed, no milk or sugar.”
No matter the energy levels in the audience or choice of song catalogs, both bands delivered a mystical evening, effortlessly sending us back in time.
Read more reviews here!