“Nostalgia vs relevance” is a constant conflict of principles within any veteran band in the modern rock landscape. Last night at the University Cultural Centre Hall, 80s band Squeeze found a comfortable balance.

First, the lineup consisted of co-founder singer-guitarist Glenn Tilbrook, backed by solid performers in Yolanda Charles (bass, vocals), Stephen Large (keyboards, vocals), Steve Smith (percussion, guitar, vocals) and Simon Hanson (drums, vocals) but sans other co-founder Chris Difford (due to fear of flying!).

Something to quibble with perhaps, until you realise that even in the 80s, the lineup chopped and changed around the nucleus of Tilbrook and Difford.

Second, Squeeze have released two new albums (Cradle to the Grave and The Knowledge) in the last four years and almost half of last night’s setlist were culled from these albums, including the highlights of “Final Score”, “Cradle to the Grave” and “Departure Lounge”.

Third, the dynamic band were able to deliver faithful versions of those memorable hits – from “Pulling Mussels from the Shell” to “Black Coffee in Bed”, “Tempted” to “Cool for Cats” (with Smith ably subbing for Difford) – with Tilbrook in good voice throughout, despite the passage of time.

My personal favourite was “Labelled with Love” (#4 UK hit from 1981) – perhaps played a tad too fast – with its countrified narrative fully intact. A definite nostalgic highlight.

One key observation that is a bugbear for me personally – the fact that most of the audience were expats. Fact is, unless the bands were massive back in the day – like the Eagles or The Police, 70s/80s veteran bands – and the style of music they play (basically Power Pop Rock N Roll) – have never been appreciated by folks in Singapore.

Which is why something like Bluesfest Byron Bay can never catch on in Singapore – the lack of appreciation of our beloved music is too shallow and superficial to allow promoters to bring in someone like Paul Weller or Jeff Lynne’s ELO. Just would not be too viable. What a pity!

In that light, kudos to LAMC Productions for taking Squeeze on for a memorable night of nostalgia and relevance!

still there’s more