21st April | O2 Academy
Photos: Michael Brumby
Thirty years since their formation, Suede remain a big draw. With their eighth studio album, 2018’s The Blue Hour, they entered the top five in the UK album charts for the first time since their nineties heyday, and this show at the O2 Academy was an easy sell-out. Most of the bands that symbolized those crazy Britpop years are long gone – hell, even the NME has gone – but Brett Anderson’s group keep rolling on, still making music that far transcends the scene that they played a key role in creating.
Tonight’s near-two-hour set is essentially half greatest hits set, and half showcase for The Blue Hour. Sometimes bands can struggle to successfully manage these two separate threads, but Suede navigate it expertly. Singer Brett Anderson fires up the crowd before the likes of ‘The Drowners’ and ‘Trash’, and wisely lets the soulful, atmospheric songs of the new record speak for themselves. It is testament to the quality of The Blue Hour that the new songs hold their own in such illustrious company, and there is no sense of the crowd waiting impatiently for the next old classic.
That said, those old classics really are something quite special. ‘We Are The Pigs’ still glistens with ominous portent. The booming chords of ‘Killing Of A Flashboy’ make it a formidable live track. ‘The Drowners’ and ‘Metal Mickey’ surely provokes goosebumps for those old enough to remember what a huge story the emergence of Suede was in the early days. ‘Animal Nitrate’, meanwhile, is just a stone-cold classic, a chirpy singalong with dark undertones.
Anderson, of course, remains the consummate showman; stalking the stage, then down at the barrier, arms aloft, then swinging the mic around above the crowd, then crouching by the drumkit as if searching for sanctuary. His shirt takes some serious punishment somewhere down the line, but he is utterly unconcerned – it just adds to the dramatic effect.
He makes reference to Bristol’s musical heritage, and how this is now effectively a hometown show for him, as he introduces a communal singalong for ‘Saturday Night’. The band seem determined to bring something extra to this show, something unique. Later on, they turn the sound right down for solo versions of ‘The Big Time’ and ‘The Wild Ones’, so quiet that it almost sounds as though the amps have been turned off altogether. Such is the reverence of tonight’s crowd, it works beautifully, and brings an intimacy, a connection, the feeling of something personal. It is a brave approach, but one that takes tonight to another level.
In fairness, the show does lose a little bit of steam after this – probably a few too many slow numbers together – but the inevitable appearance of ‘Beautiful Ones’ in the encore soon fixes that. Then Brett announces the final song, ‘Life Is Golden’. “We can’t play forever! Well, some bands can, but those bands don’t DO anything.” Certainly, this isn’t something you could ever accuse Suede of.
Anderson tells the crowd that the band will continue making albums and touring for as long as they are still writing songs they are proud of. The passion they still have is very clear indeed. For one of the greatest bands of their generation, Suede’s story is still ongoing, and long may it remain so.
See the video for ‘Life is Golden’ here: