The Alban Arena is a venue with a rich history of welcoming touring acts, some of which have gone on to world-wide fame – such as Dire Straits, who played there in 1978. I saw the legendary Rory Gallagher there in 1988, more recently The Waterboys and The Gorillaz have graced the stage. It is maybe a sign of the times that more tribute bands than original artists perform there these days. So when two of the UKs most respected musical artists were coming to the Alban Arena it was likely to be an evening not to be missed! Nerdy point – apparently both artists performed on a double bill in 1975 with the bands that initially brought them to Fame (Squeeze and Dr Feelgood).
Glenn Tilbrook opened the show with a solo set lasting around an hour. Not surprisingly he played the Squeeze songs that he is famous for and they got the best reception. He is a very accomplished guitarist, which slightly surprised me as this was not obvious from the Squeeze songs I had heard over the years. Starting with an acoustic and moving to electric for the second half of his set, he was able to mix new with old, covers with originals that gave good variety to his set. A solid start to the evening.
By contrast, Wilco Johnson and his band gave a high energy performance with a surprisingly full sound with just 3 musicians. Good solid R&B with Wilco providing his trademark staccato guitar style (the ‘stab’) and solid vocals. Wilco has a fabulous rhythm section to rely on – Dylan Howe on drums was excellent, but in Norman Watt-Roy has has a truly great bassist by his side. The three-piece allows space for a bassist to open up and express themselves and he certainly did that. One of the rare musicians that truly seems at one with their instrument.
Overall a very good night’s entertainment from two legendary UK musicians, performing the songs that made them famous.