SUEDE Bexhill De La Warr Pavillion 25 June 2015
Since moving to be by the sea 10 years ago, I've changed.. and I haven't. I've got older and wiser, and I've got smarter. And with age, there's always a risk... of being boring. Or mediocrity. Of losing touch of who you once were. Of betraying your ideals. Of a million things, and yet also, a risk of never changing, never evolving, remaining stoically, an intellectual statue. I've changed in the 10 years, and yet, 10 years ago, the sea called to me as home. I may live a few miles from the waves, but it feels like home, in a way that nowhere has since I was 21.
When a big band announces a small show in a town hall on a sea front for a late June night... that means one thing. They're probably playing Glastonbury. When Suede announced a one-off show in Bexhill's beautiful, Art Deco, De La Warr Pavillion, the next show to be announced was no surprise. Suede, after all, are long past the reunion stage of their career now, over five years in, with a new album under their belt, and well into the stage of work on Suede#7. The initial flush of any reunion, the sense of novelty with a return, has faded now, the band back into the life of being a working, touring band. Being their first full length show in a year and with no expectations, Suede open with a half hour that is, for the aficionado, a dream setlist of 4 rare b-sides. Suede don't write b-sides : they just write songs that don't go on the albums, and these songs - “Painted People” gets played live for only the second time since 1993, and “The Sound Of The Streets” the first time since 2003 (and only the eleventh time ever). Both show no signs of aging poorly, shall we say
To some, Suede's formula has dated, but then, it was dated then, being both aware of a form of musical history, and also sounding ancient and modern. There's lashings of rock, a deep and well known love of loud guitars, built alongside delicate and understated texture, a beautiful ripple as the muscle passes by. Songs like “Snowblind” sound fresh and as vital as the band did in their youth – there's non sense of ineffectual self-parody that dogged them in their final moments. Something like “For The Strangers”, for example, is timeless, sounding like a great song for their glory years – even though it is only two years old – it slips in like it always belonged.
In many ways, this is a classic Suede show. Where Suede always excelled was on the stage, live, and in your world. You're never far from a hit single or a modern classic, and the set – despite being quite light on hits (playing just 6 of their 21 singles from their first 1992-2003 lifespan) – doesn't feel like anything but a celebration of the past and the present and the future. There's new material, in the form of a revamped, dense “Tightrope” and the live premiere of an unexpected “Can't Give Her What She Wants”. These two songs, alongside the other new ones played live, indicate that in some way, Suede's new direction is that of a midlife crisis, a divorce album, a – god forbid - “No Jacket Required”, where love can conquer all, but it can also be frail, and fail.. and yet, still, we try to reach people, try to tell people, try to cross the gap between you and me to an us.
Unlike many recent shows, the sun snatches through the light of the evenings drapes, and the band play with a fluid connection as sunset slips in through the cracks: Neil Codling resembles a Ramone in white shirt, big hair, and leather jacket, and Mat Osman – taking advantage of Neil's position behind a keyboard for most of the show, takes the stage left at the front ; just like he used to.
Following up the two new songs is “Sometimes I Feel I'll Float Away” - which is just … well, it's my favourite of the newer songs for reasons too tediously personal to describe, but to still unlock new emotions, new feelings, and still to feel the same kind of invested transportation. The moment where music makes you see things in a new light after years, as if it was right there in front of your eyes, and you just couldn't see it. Songs that cut through everything to a moment in this world, buried in just one line. One look in your impossible eyes. It's the kind of song that would be known, the kind that, even at this late stage, demonstrates Suede still have something vital, and that there is no necessity to enter mediocrity just through the passing of time.
Being by the sea, they play “By The Sea”. Brett quips it - “I couldn't resist”. The final strait is four hits from the classic years, with “She”, “Animal Nitrate”, “Trash” and “The Beautiful Ones”, which make this dead, seaside town – where's Suede's appearance seems to have lowered the collective age of the town by around 40% to … under 50... come alive, and we're older, and babysitters don't work for free, but more than that, this is who we once were, and who we still are, alive, living, loving life and hoping hopes.
And then there's Brett Anderson. Who looks quietly overjoyed he finally got his job back after years in a self-imposed wilderness. And Richard Oakes, who never never gets the respect he deserves. Becried by some as a talented mimic, by others as well, overweight – as if that matters - , he's the man who singlehandedly saved Suede when they were written off as hasbeens, who authored four-and-a-half of their albums, who can seemingly play nearly anything thrown at him, who can conjour up a whirlwind of sound with just a guitar and some effects pedals, and whose abilities have been criminally underappreciated. His only crime is not being called Bernard Butler, which is absurd.
The grand finale is not all. From tonights set, a warm up for Glastonbury, the band only play 6 of the same songs at Pilton Farm, with 15 songs (and 90 minutes) only being played in Bexhill : and 11 songs only at Glastonbury. For the encore, the band eschew the usual hits set for a 25 minute “Dog Man Star” miniset, of “The 2 Of Us”, “The Asphalt World”, and “Still Life.” It's goddamn glorious, as a shilouetted Oakes makes the songs he did not write his own adopted children, wreaking a beautiful racket out of his guitar, and he nails it with an authority that betrays a quiet confidence having long stepped out of anyone else's shadow. It ends with “Still Life”, a song that, for me, forever, reminds me of the heady days of the insane Dog Man Star Tour, and a song that will bookend the imminent “Dog Man Star Live At The Albert Hall” release. It's grand in ambition and successful in execution, and a reminder that even in a sleepy seaside town on a boiling hot summer day, memories can be made that last lifetimes with nothing more complicated than guitars and good ideas. Suede aren't back, for they haven't been away, and they're just being what they always have been and what all great artists should be : we are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.
Painted People –
To the Birds -
My Insatiable One -
The Sound of the Streets -
For the Strangers -
It Starts and Ends With You -
So Young -
Metal Mickey –
Cant Give Her What She Wants -
Sometimes I Feel I'll Float Away -
By the Sea –
Animal Nitrate –
Beautiful Ones -
The 2 of Us -
The Asphalt World -