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In 2004, VH1 aired

Bands Reunited


, a series in which a host would ambush members of defunct bands on camera and try to convince them to reunite, for at least a one-off gig. Some of the bands balked, while most went along with it. It was always surprising that the members of Squeeze, the British new-wave band that'd only been broken up for a few years at that point and appeared to harbor no animosity toward each other, were among the bands that declined. But then, if it was inevitable that Squeeze singer/songwriters Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford would eventually re-form the band, it's just as well that they've done so in the past year on their own terms instead of on a tacky cable TV show.

Tilbrook and Difford seem to have settled into the same groove as Steely Dan's Walter Becker and Donald Fagen as of late, recording respective solo albums, and then coming together as the band primarily to play old favorites in concert. On Thursday, they kicked off their current U.S. tour at the 9:30 Club in Washington, playing for a room full of aging anglophiles eager to hear those chestnuts.

Squeeze has always been a fantastic singles band with somewhat patchy albums, and for the most part, it knows how to spread the hits around: "Up the Junction" here and "Another Nail in My Heart" there. Tilbrook's voice and range were impressive for a guy who recently turned 50, and even when performing the one hit in the Squeeze catalog he didn't originally sing lead on, "Tempted," he sounded right at home. Still, there were occasional bum song choices, like the drab "I Think I'm Go Go," and some of the Difford-sung tracks slowed down the night's momentum from time to time. And that just made us more bitter that our favorite deep cut, "Vicky Verky," wasn't performed.

At their peak, Difford and Tilbrook were one of the best songwriting teams of their generation, and it speaks to their skill as tunesmiths that their best songs feel like a constant barrage of hooks; often their pre-choruses have melodic twists and turns as memorable as the choruses themselves. Squeeze's current five-piece lineup, which features their old


-era bassist John Bentley and a couple of hired guns on drums and keyboards, took a no-nonsense approach with most of their songs, with only slight embellishments. The biggest exception was "Black Coffee in Bed," for which the band encouraged the audience to supply the backing vocals, and which featured a lengthy section of guitar soloing and vocal vamping by Tilbrook.

In just more than 90 minutes, Squeeze hit all the marks you could expect them to, ending the set with "Hourglass" and then ending the encore with "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)," perfect choices both. No surprises or truly transcendent moments, just many opportunities to sing along with Difford's polysyllabic mouthfuls over Tilbrook's killer chord changes.