“And if we had really truly done this on the road, I’d be crying by now.” – Glenn Tilbrook
Glenn Tilbrook, solo artist and former member of the New Wave band Squeeze, arrives in Buffalo, NY, expecting to begin his own U.S. tour in an RV, as he had planned. But there’s no RV and this certainly isn’t a typical story about the career of a musician.
There’s no obscurity, at least to the fans who come to see him perform at every stop, no bitterness, as he clearly enjoys what he does, and those who believe they’ve never heard of Tilbrook will soon be surprised in the first few minutes by the music and lyrics of “Tempted,” which is one of those songs on the radio that you hear and immediately get into. He’s provided the soundtrack to many lives and will likely do more of the same by the songs featured.
This documentary/travelogue, made by dedicated fan and filmmaker Amy Pickard looks at Tilbrook closely throughout this journey. Occasionally, he talks about how he began in music and what his childhood was like, but it’s the memories of a man who didn’t rush onto the world stage. He kind of ambled along, eventually being swept up into the craze for Squeeze, which included him and lyricist Chris Difford, who, together with other members, created a sound that started in 1974 during the New Wave period, and of course had its fair share of conflict with departing band members, band members in conflict, and eventually the breakup of the band. Through the songs of the band played by Tilbrook on acoustic guitar and also heard in bits of the way they were originally recorded, Squeeze progressed comfortably to the ‘80s and their music hasn’t aged yet.
Pickard strikes exactly the right tone at the outset, enthusiastic and slightly whimsical, because what better way to learn about the history of Squeeze than from someone who followed their entire career? She even makes sure that her collection of Squeeze concert tickets are proudly displayed, as well as her backstage passes which were given to her because of a public access show she hosted in Dayton, Ohio, devoted to the music and the artists that she loved and had the chance to interview.
Tilbrook’s friendliness and infinite joy at being able to connect with people this closely, and his untiring ambling spirit continues on into the stops on his tour, such as at a library benefit in New Jersey where he leads his audience outside and keeps on singing, and does the same at Grand Central Station in which he and his devoted chorus walk around, as he sings “Goodbye Girl” and encourages them to do the same. There is another moment in the film, not possible for any highly-regarded star on a whirlwind tour, where, while on the streets of Atlanta, one of his fans convinces the crowd to come to her house and they do and he does, shown gearing up to play some songs right in the woman’s living room. And just like Morgan Freeman in “10 Items or Less,” Tilbrook is taken in by the sights and sales at Target, excited about his first RV-related purchase: A set of Christmas lights.
With Tilbrook going to the roots of musical performance, away from arenas that he once appeared at and posh backstage rooms with fine amenities, that thought also carries into the DVD, which goes to the roots of why the DVD format exists. Pickard wisely leaves herself out of the on-camera action, even though she and cameraman Hans Fritz do quite a job in the details. With the speed at which this tour happens and the inevitable problems that come with RV ownership, especially on the road, questions naturally emerge while watching those problems happen. Fortunately, two audio commentaries; one by Tilbrook and Pickard, and one by Pickard alone, answer every conceivable question that could be asked. Tilbrook reflects on the tour, Pickard keeps him talking, and Pickard’s many troubles while making “On the Road” (including nearly freaking out when she didn’t get an answer back on if the RV had come, because she had hoped to get some shots of it, so as not to interrupt the itinerary along the way with that business), definitely show that making a film simply for the love of it is the best way. She’s come all the way around to this DVD, all the way back from 1991 and that cable access show, an episode of which is also included, featuring an interview with Tilbrook and Difford. It’s impressive dedication and also with a 47-minute interview with Difford, it’s a DVD that’s equally for the purpose of reminding viewers of Squeeze and introducing them to a new Glenn Tilbrook. He’s still got the voice and the music and the words, but especially now, there’s his new course, captured wonderfully.