Squeeze play

Glenn Tilbrook needs the stage


Glenn Tilbrook at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Wednesday (May 15). $12.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN


the rv speeds down route I5 on the U.S. West Coast. A road sign reads “Portland 50 miles,” and the soundtrack blares Squeeze’s Cool For Cats.All of a sudden the camper starts to cough black smoke and vibrate, and a Brit-accented voice bellows, “Bloody hell! What’s going on?”

The voice is Glenn Tilbrook’s, and he’s reacting to yet another tour-bus breakdown. The scene could wind up being in One For The Road, a documentary about Tilbrook that’s currently in production. He’s the singer songwriter best remembered for his work with 80s new wave band Squeeze, and he brings his solo show and his newly repaired RV to the Horseshoe Wednesday.

“I’m nowhere near the peak of my career. I’m completely aware of that,” says Tilbrook. “I hope the film shows that it’s possible to make a way for yourself.”

Humble words from a man revered by many for his pop craftsmanship, who’s collaborated with the likes of Mark Knopfler, Elvis Costello and Richard and Linda Thompson.

But Cool For Cats was released in 1979, and new wave is history. A recent bout of 80s nostalgia hasn’t moved Tilbrook to envision a Squeeze reunion, but neither does he plan to quit making music and touring any time soon.

“I’m not in a position where I could give up working, but I also enjoy touring. I want to tour for the rest of my life. The interesting thing is that I’ve had kids come up to me who know nothing about Squeeze. They’ve stumbled across my record and played it on their college radio program.”

But even if some people are stuck in the past when it comes to Tilbrook, his marketing methods are very present-tense. You won’t hear him on the radio or on MuchMusic. He takes full advantage of the Internet to get word out about concert tours and new recording projects.

“My primary business is to let people know about me. The Internet has been fantastic for bringing people together to support my work. The record companies even use it to find people who will put up flyers for my concerts.”

When it comes down to promotion versus piracy, the former always wins out for Tilbrook.

“It’s one of those things where technology has run ahead of the law, so we’ve got to get used to it. Now it’s up to the artists to make the packaging more interesting. We’ve got to make the shows more interesting.”

He’s spent the past eight years working on his solo performances, and promises there will be lots of Squeeze songs alongside solo tunes and covers when he hits the stage with his acoustic guitar.

“My shows are full of improvisation,” sells Tilbrook. “They’re full of people talking to me and me talking to them.”

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