Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Brett Anderson - Queen Elizabeth Hall - 20 October 2007
Unlikely as it seems, Brett Anderson is fast becoming an elder statesman of music : 15 years from Suede's sudden explosion in the post-Nirvana backlash, with 7 albums under his belt – alongside some of the best music made in contemporary Britain, Brett Anderson has evolved again. Not the arrogant pup of pretentious youth, nor the drug fuelled hedonist of his commercial heyday, Brett is recasting himself in a new light : that of the artiste with a vision, a singer of songs, a modern day torch singer matched near Cohen, Scott Walker, and Jacque Brel. Stripped of his rock band setting – which now seems almost old-fashioned and a burden in the light of shows like this – Anderson is the helpless, hopeless, fighting romantic, slugging it out on the ropes of life and loneliness to survive.
In the classic setting of the Queen Elizabeth Hall (a beautiful classical venue of exceptional artistry), Anderson is supported by Fred Ball on occasional keys, and the Dirty Pretty Strings, who give life and breathe air into the material with a vision of vast epic orchestration. I'm not sure in fact, if Anderson has ever sounded better. Drawing exclusively from his lush, brilliant solo record and the Suede catalogue, Anderson sidesteps The Tears (and the final Suede record) in favour of recasting – and reappropriating - his work to show previously hidden depths of drama. Armed with just a piano, a guitar, and a string ensemble, Anderson takes convuluted epics (such as the ten-minute guitar epic “The Asphalt World”) and strips them to their bare essence – a delicious ballad of great depth and power that cuts to the heart of the matter, rendered wrenchingly on just a piano and voice.. The under-rated and underappreciated solo album, a intimate yet sweeping widescreen drama of doomed romance, is, in the light of this concert setting, reappraised as an artistic equal (at least) of any of his better known work.
Opening with “To The Winter” the set is equally plucked from 1993-99 era Suede and peppered with about half of the new record. It's difficult to pick a highlight in an evening of highlights, where songs tug at heartstrings, where each songs sounds essential, brilliant, absolutely vital to the human condition of modern life, where each moment feels akin to witnessing watching a great artist paint on their canvas in front of your eyes. When Brett slips into lines like “We'll go to Worthing – and flog ice creams – until the companies on its knees” (the one choice from the assured 1993 Suede debut), it feels like someone has taken the thoughts you didn't even know you had and projected them onto the side of a mountain. It's moments like this that make all of us transcend the essential loneliness of being human, breach the gap between souls, move us from individuals into one mass communal identity, where we are one – but not the same. Where humans find joy and comfort in the moment. You are not alone, we are all like this, all of us, brilliant, beautiful, all of us no longer need fear, for we have each other and that is, in itself, the greatest strength we have – each other. Brett Anderson is a brilliant, albeit underloved artist, beset by the bullshit of trends and fads and pretending never-to-have-liked-him anyway. Ditch the bullshit and the pretence : this is brilliance.