When venturing into the reunion tour arena, there are artists who embrace the notion of nostalgia and artists who, like it or not, have it thrust upon them. Unlike their peers in the Police, this venerable new wave combo chose to place itself squarely in the former camp at this, the second of two New York-area stops on their current trek — as borne by the comments of co-founder Glenn Tilbrook, who unabashedly declared, mid-set, that “we haven’t played any new songs because there aren’t any.”
There were enough high-quality old ones — both immediately recognizable and surprisingly obscure — to keep the 90-minute set rolling along at a crisp pace, flagging only when the band tilted too far toward showcasing the sugary aspects of its bittersweet back catalog. For most of the perf, however, Tilbrook and once-estranged songwriting partner Chris Difford got the balance right, hitting the oddball turns of “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)” and “Trust Me to Open My Mouth” with exuberance and fluency that belied their years apart.
In keeping with their status as the most quintessentially British band of its generation to make a mark on this side of the Atlantic, Squeeze trotted out a goodly number of ditties (like the bouncy “Up the Junction”) that might’ve sent novices running for Brit-American dictionaries. The friendly warmth with which Difford sang added an endearing quality to the material. His rough-hewn voice has grown homier with age, as heard in his burnished take on “Is That Love?,” which took on a palpably more wizened tone than when first aired.
While some of the material — the faux-funky “Cool for Cats,” for instance — lost a bit of its snap in crossing the millennial divide, wince-inducing instances of datedness were few and far between. Thanks in part to a sympathetic backing band anchored by bassist John Bentley — himself a vintage member of the group — Difford and Tilbrook proved that snarky social satirists can give nostalgia a good name.
Squeeze plays the Greek Theater in Los Angeles on Aug. 13.