Suede: The boys are back in fashion
Tonight a reformed Suede play their biggest UK gig in seven years. Here Brett Anderson and the band record life on the road in Europe ahead of their homecoming
Tuesday 07 December 2010
We take an early flight for a gig at the Razzmatazz – a venue we've played four or five times over the years. Sitting in the dressing room before the show brings back memories of the same scruffy ceiling shaking under the Manic Street Preachers' thunderous, gig-ending version of "You Love Us", when they played with us here 13 years ago.
The dressing room's more sedate than it would have been then – less booze and more Deep Heat – but the show is the same riot it always is in Spain. People are singing and dancing from the first note and Sean, our soundman, can't hear the drums over the whistling of the crowd. It's fearsomely hot and stupidly friendly.
Back at the hotel Simon [Gilbert, drummer] changes rooms as his is too noisy.
28 November: Paris
Everyone turns up for the Paris show – it's always the way. Play Stuttgart on a Wednesday and the guestlist is bare, but a Saturday in Paris has everyone's mobile buzzing: "You wouldn't have a couple of places free, would you?" The venue, the Élysée Montmartre, is surrounded by sex shops as far as the eye can see and we worry briefly that the runner we've sent out for food is only going to be able to come back with five pairs of edible knickers and a chocolate dildo, but he conjures up some sushi from somewhere. The show's more reverent than the Barcelona gig – still pretty great, but not as wild. We try out "We Are the Pigs" for the first time in eight years and Richard [Oakes, guitar] reminds us that it was his audition piece when he joined the band.
Back at the hotel Simon changes rooms because his is too stuffy.
29 November: Brussels
Paris was cold, but this is ridiculous. Brussels is thick with snow and a morning off that should have been spent doing something cultural descends into watching BBC2 in the hotel, eating room service and buying endless pairs of gloves. The show's a revelation though – starts off Paris-quiet, ends up Barcelona-loud and even a two-b-side run of "To the Birds" and "Killing of a Flashboy" doesn't stop the crowd dancing. Brussels is also home, for some reason, to legions of air drummers – one father-son team in the front row happily rolled and paradiddled themselves throughout the whole gig. We're off to Stockholm tomorrow and the local paper's headline is "Kallast Pa 100 Ar" – "coldest in 100 years".
Back at the hotel Simon changes rooms because he can't smoke in his.
1 December: Stockholm
It's minus 12 when we arrive at Arlanda Airport, but the cab driver tells us that "this evening it'll get cold". We're sharing the hotel with a party from the Chinese Army; very smart they look too, with their gold braid and epaulets, but it does mean that every time they nip out for a fag someone asks them to carry their bags.
The gig is a chance for us to try and whip our London setlist into shape. Like Fabio Capello we pick on form, and the strong showing of "We Are the Pigs" at recent gigs sees it upgraded to the full squad. We try out an acoustic version of "The Living Dead" that a) adds a much-needed injection of space and drama, and b) allows the band's smokers time for a cigarette. At the after-show we hear perhaps the most Scandinavian sentence of all time: "Me and my girlfriend had a threesome with a serving wench at Medieval Week – it was fun but I'm worried her blue pubic hair was historically inaccurate."
Simon's room is quiet, well-aired and roomy. He changes flights instead.
2 December: Amsterdam
It's soundcheck time and bad weather means that half of the band are just arriving at Schiphol, half are still on the tarmac in Stockholm, and all our equipment is on a German autobahn. We finally cobble together an odd mix of guitars we'd taken on the plane and borrowed local gear in time to do the show. Which, unpredictably, turns out to be the best of the tour. The Dutch belie their reputation for being chemically laid-back by singing constantly, stomping their feet so loud that the jazz club next door complains and generally making the whole thing a bit of a celebration.
The hotel shows typical Dutch efficiency, neatly sidestepping the possibility of Simon changing rooms by pre-emptively doing it themselves. Clever.
3 December: Berlin
Last, and biggest, date of the tour and a final chance for a few songs to make a Walcott-esque move up into the O2 set. "The Next Life" gets a piano-and-vocals outing that goes down a storm so it may have booked its place, and "We Are the Pigs" is great again. Germany used to be a bit of a chore in Suede's early days – due partly to the fact that their equivalent of NME regularly put such hot new acts as Roger Waters and Paul McCartney on the cover. Seven years away seems to have convinced them that we're finally sufficiently elderly to go on the "one to watch" list and the show's a cracker. The setlist also neatly contains 23 songs – Suede's lucky number for reasons too nebulous to go into here. Still, plenty of good omens for London.
Simon's room is perfect but it seems silly to break a winning streak so he changes one more time just for the sake of completeness.
Next stop, it's the big one, back to London. We're coming home.
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