Despite my adoration of this band in the nineties and since – although let's forget about A New Morning, eh? – much of the reformation activity of Suede has kinda passed me by. I missed the album shows in 2011 by virtue of being 3,500 miles west of London for Festival Kinetik in Montreal, and I'll be missing the big Alexandra Palace show this coming weekend as I'll be at Resistanz in Sheffield. However, the chance to see the band with just a couple of hundred people in the confines of Rough Trade East was too good to pass up, so I ordered the new album in advance – as did my girlfriend – so we could both head along.
It has been a while since I last saw Suede – I saw them twice on the Coming Up tour, an extraordinary show at the Roundhouse in Camden (December '96), followed by another show in Reading the following Spring – so I was interested to see, post-reunion, quite whether they had the power live that they did then. And as they took to the stage, and ripped into the new album opener Barriers, the answer was a resounding yes.
Barriers is pretty much exactly the kind of thing I wanted to hear from a rejuvenated Suede – an urgent drum beat hammers like an excited heartbeat, before exploding into a glorious, soaring chorus, and while it sounds great on record, it was a storming, life-affirming three minutes live, and the whole band were notably smiling away as the song finished, seemingly picking up where they left off with Coming Up seventeen (!) years ago. And for Brett Anderson and Neil Codling in particular, it looks as if they've done some deal somewhere to keep them looking lithe and youthful, as they both belied their years in both looks and actions.
Well, maybe only in looks for Neil Codling, whose habit of looking effortlessly cool while seemingly not doing too much onstage is the same as ever. Brett was all over the stage, exorting the crowd, dancing away, and putting his all into his vocals. This is no reformation for the money only, this is a band who perhaps are aware that their critical record needed a bit of rebalancing. And while their new material is hardly reinventing the wheel, it is back to Suede doing what they do best. Dark-edged indie-pop songs, that tell tales of love, sex and melancholy amidst the underbelly of London, with moments of celebrationary joy that is hard not to get carried along with.
As was proven time and again during this forty-five minute set. Initially we thought it was going to be a run through the whole album, after they blitzed through the first three songs from Bloodsports in order – but those teeny fears were dispelled as the grinding, filthy riff to Filmstar invaded our senses, and started the first mini-moshpit of the night down the front.
It Starts And Ends With You
Sometimes I Feel I’ll Float Away
Following that, there were a mini torrent of old favourites amidst a few more new songs, but interestingly the old songs were only from the debut album, and Coming Up. Nothing from the later albums was not surprising in the slightest, but what was, was the lack of Dog Man Star material. But then, thinking about it, with the starry-eyed, skygazing hooks of the new songs, it fits in much better with the old songs that they played. Particularly Hit Me, another of the new, uptempo tracks, with a huge chorus that flowed perfectly straight into the closing Trash and Beautiful Ones, two songs that are Suede at their most exuberant and populist.
It is a fine line, too, between aiming for populism and throwing away all that was great – as many bands have found to their cost in the past – but here is a band who acknowledge their past mistakes – a number of them could charitably be described as drug-influenced – and have pretty much reset their path to the one they should have taken all the long. Most returning bands after this long barely have a good single in them, never mind an album, but Suede have managed to return with a cracking album and an equally good live performance, and for the first time seeing the band in so long, hearing the old and new work so well together was a heck of a buzz.