It’s probably quite fair to say that, a few years ago, the five members of Suede would not have imagined themselves back onstage together promoting a new album.
Three years ago they reformed, without guitarist Bernard Butler, for a one-off charity gig – their first in seven years – at the Royal Albert Hall. It led to their biggest ever non-festival show, at the O2 Arena, a European tour, sold-out shows, headline slots at festivals, and the re-release of their five studio albums. Later this month, Suede will play to 10,000 at London’s vast Alexandra Palace.
And now here they are, playing their smallest ever gig, to 200-odd fans and XFM competition winners for the charity War Child. The room is packed with thirty- and fortysomethings brimming with nostalgia for the Nineties, when the band lit the way for Britpop. Not that the feeling of nostalgia lasts in this tiny, sweaty Camden room. Far from it. From the moment Suede open with an energised performance of “Barriers” – the first release from their forthcoming new album, Bloodsports, their first in 11 years – which swells with hook-laden guitars and pulsing bass and drums, they prove themselves vital and contemporary – and far removed from a band feeding off former glories.
Singer Brett Anderson, now 45, still plays the coquettish frontman, emphasising his familiarly camp vocals. He can’t get close enough to his fans. There are no security men at the front, and Anderson stands at the stage lip, swinging the microphone when he’s not bouncing energetically, then climbing atop monitors, gripping many an outstretched hand, or opening wide his arms, soaking up the adulation that is readily bestowed upon him. The set begins with his white shirt marginally unbuttoned; by the end, it is open to his navel.
There are a few new songs tonight, of which the yearning, anthemic “For the Strangers” is a crowd-uniting highlight – but it’s a show filled with rarities for the fans. The 80-minute set is packed with songs from their debut, self-titled album, with which they burst onto the scene in 1993, and B-sides – such as “My Insatiable One” and the stomping, brutally energetic “Killing of a Flash Boy” – for which they were as well-known for as their singles. Those singles – “Filmstar”, “Animal Nitrate”, “Trash” and the sing-along finale “Beautiful Ones” – are all delivered with fresh exuberance and passion. The band leave a crowd energised.