Suede, Brixton Academy, London
Tuesday 24 May 2011
Many old shots of Brett Anderson posing coquettishly as a self-regarding dandy have been published in recent weeks, though none can prepare us for the sight of Suede's singer with arms heroically stretched out, encompassing his fans' adulation. And this is during "Breakdown", one of the less memorable tracks from their debut album, which now closes with a punishing coda to replace the original's yearning close.
It's a sign that his band have more on their minds than rehashing old glories as they embark on a residency to play their first three LPs, beginning with the explosive bundle from 1993 that lit the touch paper for Britpop. Anderson has since chafed at being portrayed as chief Union Jack-waver for that parochial genre, even if, on its final track, the Haywards Heath lad only gets as far as Worthing. Tonight, he makes the case that Suede were always more ambitious, at least in their early days.
The five-piece, still lacking the visionary, original guitarist Bernard Butler, play the Suede record in order. You know what to expect, then – yet the decision is justified by a brilliant performance, from the soaring, celebratory "So Young" to a delicate "Next Life", with Anderson accompanied only by electric piano. This is a pumped-up incarnation of the band, whose vocalist is especially fiery. He barely talks between songs, but every gesture is directed at fervent acolytes who scream when he swings his microphone.
His falsetto is less surefire nowadays, but added power from clean living and a mature, gravelly touch add heft to slower numbers, notably a smouldering "Pantomime Horse". Curiously, the band play the glam stomp of "The Drowners" at a more measured tempo, Anderson threatening to suck the life out of it further by carefully enunciating his camp lyrics, until he distracts us by leaping off stage. You fear he will lose a limb in the crowd, but comes away minus only a shirt button. Utterly lacking self-awareness, he cries "What are we?" during the album opener's chorus, causing a predominantly thirtysomething crowd to reply "So young..."
Anything after this would be a comedown, and energy levels do drop when the group return to play this era's B-sides. Yet "My Insatiable One" shows that such tracks were often better than anything many rivals could muster. And tonight Suede show they can really rock out as well.
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