So I had it a bit wrong. I thought -- clearly underestimating the "nostalgia" pull -- that if Aimee Mann and Squeeze were touring together, surely Mann was the headliner. And it wasn't until we got to the Royal Oak Music Theater (in the Detroit suburb of, you guessed it, Royal Oak) that I realized we had it backwards. Which was kind of fine with me. I was there to see Mann and while I was a big Squeeze fan in my teens, I kind of cringed at the idea of watching an ancient incarnation of a band I used to love. Hits too close to home in the age arena, you know? Chris and I hadn't been to Royal Oak before, so it was interesting in, you know, a not-that-interesting sort of way. (St. Louis readers will appreciate the tip that it reminded me a bit of Kirkwood.) I guess this is where Detroit keeps its white folk. A lot of the same shops you'd find in Ann Arbor with a less charming layout and a train track running right through it. It's entirely possible there's a lot more to it, but I didn't pick up on it.
As soon as we were in line to get inside the theater, we realized this didn't look like an Aimee Mann crowd. How can I explain it? They looked too, like, buoyant and, you know, old. They were wearing too many pastels. In fact, it looked a lot like people had come straight from the golf course to take in a show. But could this really be Squeeze's crowd? The band that helped usher in the new wave/pop madness of the late-seventies and early eighties? (Oddly enough, the answer is, yes, yes, it was.)
The Music Theater is a decent enough space, though if it were spruced up a tad it would be stunning. It has an upper balcony with reserved seating and then a tiered floor plan for general admission, with a handful of cafe tables scattered throughout. I was surprised that you could smoke inside there, but what do I know? We nabbed some good seats at one of the ables and had a stellar view of the stage. (Although the price was very close proximity to speakers stage left.)
Mann was fantastic, in her particularly melancholy sort of way. From what we could hear over the crowd yammering at top volume, her voice was impeccable. As Chris mentioned, if she were able to engage the audience a bit more, it would be even better, but I'm not sure that's the kind of performer or person she is.Â Jolly good show, but probably the wrong venue. I'd love to see her somewhere more intimate with a less beer-swillingy crowd.
Next came Squeeze and I sort of had the idea that we'd hear a few songs, then we could head out and get home at a decent hour like good folk. And there is the discomfort of noting that both the band and the audience are, well, old. (Also, I've never seen so many men with gigantic beer bellies at a show because, you know, I don't like country music.)
The original three members of Squeeze -- who, we must remember, joined forces in 1974 -- have all widened and morphed into some combination of Nathan Lane and Tom Conti. (The drummer and keyboardist are not original members, but the former may actually have been Bruce Willis. The keyboardist did his best to match the panache of the now-legendary Jools Holland.) But their voices? Exactly the same. It was surprisingly and powerfully nostalgic.
Squeeze, The Singles was the soundtrack for a lot of my freshman year, one of those albums I bonded with people over and made new friends, the way you seek out these similar threads at college. And they tossed out all the hits -- Tempted, Pulling Muscles from A Shell, Hourglass, Cool for Cats, Goodbye Girl, you name it. It was, in fact, a blast. I love, love, love how music has the power to bring the past rushing back, to dig into some part of you so deep and young and all the stuff that goes with it. Good times, people. Good times.