Suede, 02 Dome, London
Britpop stars still strutting their stuff
Thursday 09 December 2010
Brett Anderson takes the stage like a wronged man scenting vindication, coming in for the kill. For so many years the Lost Boys of Britpop, tonight's tour-closing show at the O2 may be one of the biggest of Suede's entire career, and Anderson gazes out across the crowd with the look of a star relieved to find himself on a stage of suitable size again, after years of diminishing returns and a period spent shuffling alone through the has-been wilderness.
One of former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler's complaints about the singer was that he was too concerned with being a star – which, as frontman, may be justifiably regarded as being a large part of his job, after all – and when the bubble of stardom bursts, stars have so much further to fall than mere musicians. So the shift back into the spotlight must have come as an immense relief.
Tonight's show is the culmination of a comeback, and the audience response offers confirmation that this is something more than yet another nostalgia show. There's something more rabidly celebratory about this reaction, which by the third song of the set finds the mosh-pit pogoing madly to "Trash". Like many of Suede's songs, it's an anthem of gutter communion, blessed with a refrain of "you and me", which Anderson invites the crowd to sing in his place. Shortly afterwards, during an ecstatically received "The Drowners", he's thrusting himself into their adoring, outstretched arms, as if searching for the physical reality of the line "you're taking me over".
The rest of the band, though, seem to have shrunk to afford their frontman adequate room to strut his skinny stuff. Like him, they're all in black, but only guitarist Richard Oakes essays any onstage moves as he cranks out the brash, raw riffs. Bassist Mat Osman and drummer Simon Gilbert huddle together at the rear, pumping out the juddering grooves that career around the room, while Neil Codling remains eerily stone-faced, impassive and emotionless as he drifts between keyboards and guitar. Not that there's any shortfall in impact. "Animal Nitrate" rocks harder than ever, and Oakes wrings a tortuous snarl from his guitar for "We Are the Pigs", which ends with Anderson on his knees, a supplicant in front of his congregation. A couple of songs later, he's back on his knees again, head bowed for what seems like an eternity, before rising up, regarding the audience with the quizzical stare of a meerkat.
From there it's a steady succession of crowd favourites like "So Young" and "Metal Mickey", interspersed with more languorous moments like the limpid "Everything Will Flow" and "The Next Life". It's a long show, the better part of two hours, as if the band are offering a valedictory performance and don't want to leave out anything of note. But on this showing, with this response, I'd be surprised if this were the last we were to hear of Suede. They may have been outflanked by more brutish Britpop bullies a decade ago, but if they can't feel renewed fire in their bellies after a night like this, what are they doing it for?
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