SUEDE. London Garage. 16 October 2013.
Moving – Snowblind – Killing Of A Flashboy – It starts And Ends With You – Film Star – Trash – Animal Nitrate – Heroine – He's Dead – Sometimes I Feel I'll Float Away – Daddy's Speeding – This Hollywood Life – The Drowners – Painted People – Another No One – For The Strangers – So Young – Metal Mickey – The Beautiful Ones – Hit Me
At last. With “Bloodsports” seven months old, Suede continue with an unusual approach, but one that will reap them dividends : simply going out there and playing live pretty much anywhere that will have them. This, an intimate warm up for their largest UK tour in eleven years, sees Suede headlining the weeny London Garage to around 400 people before they trek to venues ten times the size across the UK and Europe. And how does it feel?
It feels like the best live Suede show have played in at least a decade. In terms of feel, the nearest set of Suede shows it reminds me of is the immortal 5 night run at the London ICA 10 years ago, where the band play rarely heard songs last played in 2003, or, in the case of the unexpected, swashbuckling, riproaring guitar rampage of “Painted People”, 1993 – over half my life ago.
Ostensibly a “Q Icon” Awards show, this really is Suede as they can be (and often aren't) : a concentrated dose of pop thrills, with a band not made of bored session musicians, but the core lineup they have held on and off since 1994, with Mat Osman and Simon Gilbert the bands permanent rhythm section, Richard Oakes on guitar – a spot he had held for over 19 years – and Neil Codling, the permathin stick insect who never sweats and seemingly can play anything. You've never heard many of these songs with twin guitars and a sweat-drenched 47 year old Brett Anderson seemingly as vibrant as ever. It's not even the end of the first song but the time sweat pours off each member and Anderson is up to his neck in the crowd. For those of us with long memories, it was like this, exactly like this, during the bands first run of breathless fervour in late 1992, where the band stole the crown of the hour from Morrissey and became near-instantly a classic, brilliant band. When was the last time you heard “Moving”? “Another No One”? “Painted People” in popular live rotation? Either never (in the middle case), or 1993. And the band acquit them flawlessly.
Oakes, on the other hand, is the man who saved Suede when they were written off and he was regarded as, at best, a talented mimic instead his own man : the only other band who had a member leave mid second-album and continue with such vibrancy? Pink Floyd.
In the meantime, the band power through : with five songs from “Bloodsports” the record is now established in the canon of Suede's history – unlike many 'comeback' records, it's a solid, concise, and powerful record, and the songs on it – and played here – fit perfectly in the context of the rest of material. I miss “Barriers” - the great opening track of any Suede record, and the setlist omits any song from the often-rubbish “A New Morning” and the underrated “Head Music”, with a solid attack of gems from the first three albums, a handful of b-sides, and half the new record. Codling, without an ounce of heat, stares curious at the clamouring hands of people who ought to know better, whilst a sweat drenched Anderson leaps into the arms of the crowd singing his head off with abandon. At one point, he even asks for the doors to be open – it's an oppressive fist of heat. By the end, it's a solid line of hits now and then, as the band clamber exhausted off stage after 90 minutes. Ultimately, this is one of the best Suede shows I have ever seen – and the first I have experienced that feels like the bands first incarnation, with the same sense of urgency and the same undeniable connection to the core elements of an artist : this music matters.