For a band still enjoying post-reformation critical acclaim status a decade on you’d maybe forgive Suede for just knocking out the hits and picking up the pay checks when they perform. However, tonight’s show – like their triumphant Victorious Festival slot last summer – once again reminds us that this is a band striving to push themselves both on record and in the live arena.
It’s got to be said that the latest, much lauded album, ‘Autofiction’ has invigorated the band. The majority of tonight’s set hails from it with frontman Brett Anderson describing it halfway through the show as ‘Suede’s best record’. It’s a bold statement given their extraordinary back catalogue but the energy emanating from the stage right from the off is telling. The first three songs are all lifted from the latest release with ‘Personality Disorder’ in particular blowing any cold Monday evening in mid December cobwebs well and truly away. It’s a powerful start with Anderson hurling himself into proceedings, gesticulating to the crowd, crawling around, leaping off monitors. The Suede faithful in the front row lap it up of course but the buzz around the whole of the venue is electric. The band then rip into ‘The Drowners’ with its sultry chorus before taking it up a couple of notches further with a beefed up ‘Trash’ and an even more galvanised ‘Animal Nitrate’ creating a wall of sound around the venue.
Just as we’re thinking that they might not let things up at all, the band do eventually slow things down when Anderson takes to the front of the stage, acoustic guitar in hand. Looking up he smiles at those in attendance, asking “Are you an ‘obscure’ or ‘well known’ crowd?” before ending up giving us both. He starts by offering us the obscure – playing ‘Oceans’, a bonus track from their fifth album – before segueing into the classic sounds of ‘Wild Ones’ and the mass singalong begins. With the band back on stage after Anderson’s acoustic interlude we get ‘It Starts And Ends With You’ from 2013’s ‘Bloodsports’. Aside from the ‘Autofiction’ tracks, this is the only other post-reformation song yet it really does highlight the ‘Suede sound’ over the last 30 years. Its sweeping, pop edged chorus has Anderson singing to every individual in the room. Later on, we are treated to a gorgeous piano and vocal rendition of ‘The Big Time’. A deep B side cut from the Animal Nitrate single, Neil Codling’s piano provides the perfect backdrop to Anderson’s pitch perfect vocal.
Suede are British rock royalty – forebearers of Britpop whether they like it or not but ultimately transcending it and continuing with a run of critically acclaimed albums since. There is more longevity in bands these days – just look around any gig venue to see the range of ages in the crowd (and on stage!) but more often than not, the joy of these bands is in nostalgia. With Suede though, their performance level is off the charts and it’s not just a hyperactive Anderson as the rest of the band exude vitality – Richard Oakes’ guitar playing is a joy throughout – from muscular power chords of ‘Filmstar’ to the swirling lead of the aforementioned ‘It Starts and Ends With You’ whilst I particularly enjoyed bassist Matt Osman coming to the front of the stage and driving both the song and crowd forward during ‘She Still Leads Me On’. They are a band who seemingly still have so much more to give.
Sadly the set tonight does have to come to an end. The band finish with ‘Beautiful Ones’ which sounds simply immense within the Guildhall’s confines. The mass singalong which greets it is just as powerful a gesture as the hushed, reverent silence which met fan favourite ‘The Big Time‘ earlier on and once again reminds us of the endearing quality of one of Britain’s best bands.