When most rock groups break up and then try to reunite, the results are usually a strained imitation of the original spirit. An exception is the British new wave band Squeeze, which is now back to four of its original five members after numerous turnovers and a three-year breakup. Squeeze sounded even better than it had in its original incarnation as it played with a new confidence and looseness Saturday night at Merriweather Post Pavilion. The finely crafted pop songs of guitarists Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford are as clever and quirky as ever, but for the first time Squeeze rocked and rolled convincingly.
Even older songs like "Another Nail in My Heart" and "Black Coffee in Bed" took on new muscle and momentum in the arrangements driven by Gilson Lavis, the most underrated drummer in Britain. The songs from the band's forthcoming album sounded most promising, from the moody heartbreak of "The Waiting Game" to the bittersweet rocker "Summer Is Over." Jools Holland, dressed like a London banker, served as the show's absurdist music hall emcee, and newcomer Andrew Metcalf played Memphis organ to Holland's boogie-woogie piano. The real star, though, was Tilbrook, who displayed an added soulfulness in his vocals as well as several strong blues guitar solos.
Opening the show was Winter Hours, a young neo-folk-rock quintet from New York playing its first show outside a nightclub. Michael Carlucci's inspired guitar figures conjured up a resonant reverie that was appropriate for Joseph Marques' seductively introspective vocals. The firm push of the rhythm section kept the youthful romanticism of the songs from becoming too ethereal. Instead the atmospheric harmonies pulsed to a real passion, especially when they found a melodic center of gravity, as on the band's college-radio hit, "She Has an Answer for Everything," or the Velvet Underground's "Foggy Notion."