NME Awards : SUEDE / ROYAL BLOOD / CHARLIE XCX / etc – Brixton Academy 18 February 2015
A half decade after their unexpected reunion, and Suede have established a second life. Unlike Blur, who so cynically reappear every few years between Hyde Park shows to play nothing but old songs, and unlike Pulp, who became a touring museum, Suede have always been moving forward. It was only 18 months after their reformation they debuted 10 (mostly still unreleased) new songs in Russia, and since then there's been a new album, a dozen or so b-sides, and already three songs from the next album. Suede don't rest on their laurels.
Tonight, Suede are hailed as Godlike Geniuses by the NME, though I'm not quite sure why. They are Godlike Geniuses – and it's important to know that plenty of great songs have been written since the end of their first era with Bernard Butler, even if many of those songs have been unjustly written out of history – but remember what William Burroughs said in 1984 in New York at some Awards Ceremony. “I didn't listen when they wanted to put me in jail, and I don't listen now.”
Still, it's always nice to get recognised for something by someone else, even if you may already know you're damn good. There's still a two hours awards ceremony before Suede appear, though. And the heavily trailed Royal Blood play one song to open with. Considering that until a week before the show they were the band that were being highlighted as the 'main' act, it's a ripoff and somewhat exploitative of their fans. Royal Blood were good, but like it felt like a mere 'fun size pack' of sweets. Not quite enough.
Upstairs at Brixton isn't exactly engaging. It often feels like watching a TV in someone elses garden, being on the balcony. There's non-performance appearances by The Manic Street Preachers, Pulp, Bernard Sumner, Happy Mondays, Frank Turner, and Jimmy Page (which means I have now seen every living member of Led Zeppelin in the flesh), an obviously mimed piece-of-shit by Charlie XCX, what sounds like a b-side by The Vaccines – which, if its their best song is a tragic state of affairs – and for some bizarre reason Kate Bush's first live shows in 35 years don't get Music Event of The Year.
Suede on the other hand, play their first show in half a year, and a break out from sessions for album seven with a short twenty three minute set. It's easily the shortest set I've ever seen, apart from some TV miming in the 90's, and amongst the most bizarre, as the downstairs area is 90% made of seated celebrities eating Dominos Pizza and clutching awards. Upstairs, meanwhile, is dominantly Suede fans who bought tickets in the handful of days between the announcement of Suede's appearance and the show happening. I'd be glad I hadn't flown from say, Germany, to see this, because it wouldn't have been worth it.
The set is short, sharp, and Suede. There's the best b-side of all time - “Killing Of A Flashboy”, which segues effortlessly into “Metal Mickey” and then “Film Star.” With nary a word to the crowd, there's the unexpected debut of another new song - “What I'm Trying To Tell You”, which reaches to the heart, a repetitive, and simple imploring of one reaching to another, built on a fast, circular guitar riff and ascending keyboards of increasing desperation until it finally collapses. We're still relevant, still creating, still moving. Being a Godlike Genius should never include being a tame and predictable nostalgia act.
There's two songs left – the footstomping attack of “Animal Nitrate” and the best comeback / debut single of all time, in “Trash”. In many ways, “Coming Up” was the bands second debut, and a band just as good and meaningful as their earlier incarnation, a band whose reputation would have been sealed and applauded just on the contribution of the 'replacement' guitarist Richard Oakes, - a man who never got his dues for his talent, who had a near impossible task, and rose to the occasion with grace and wrote some of the bands best songs, as well as, in less than 18 months month, helping the band write and release 30 songs (it took Suede five years to write the 37 Butler-era songs, by the way). Nevertheless, the band close the show with this song, the powerful first salvo from their rebirth, and with that, their status as Godlike Geniuses is reaffirmed. And it's 22.27. And the night is already over.