Suede: O2 Guildhall, Southampton – live reviewSuede

Southampton O2 Guildhall    

22 October 2013

The previous day Suede picked up the ICON Award at the Q magazine awards. Their Bloodsports album will top many of Album of the Year polls at the end of the year. Suede are at the top of their game. Ged Babey catches the first date of the Autumn tour 2013 and is blown away.

This was one of the best performances I’ve seen this or any other year,  An elegantly energetic performance made to seem effortless, a fact belied by the sweat pouring off Brett Anderson.  Suede were electric.  Suede  were pure sex,  Suede are sheer drama & emotion turned into rock’n’roll showmanship & virtuoso playing.

They have an enviable back catalogue of teen anthems (20 singles pre-split and the majority classics to rank with the Smiths output) and despite being in healthy middle-age they really do sound better than ever.

The songs from Bloodsports are majestic played live, the guitar-noise is fluid, molten, a waterfall of beautiful chimes… the overall sound grandiose, symphonic but still just framing great romantic, yearning pop songs.  Supersonic, psychedelic torch songs from Brett the diva’s imagination.

The set was divided into two,  roughly forty-minute segments; Bloodsports in its entirety;  A three minute break and the hits/best of set.  The first half saw Brett giving furious glances and gesticulating at the soundman, but it sounded perfect in the cavernous, echoey confines of the Guildhall ( sorry 0-fucking-2 Guildhall as it was renamed a week or two back).

Surprising the crowd were attentive but pretty static for the first half but ecstatic and bouncing for the practically everything-you-wanted to-hear hits section.  So Young, Beautiful Ones and Trash were magnificent but there weren’t any lulls, it was wall-to-wall brilliance, hit-by-hit.

Christ, this is a real teenage, gushing review coming from a 49 year old – but I was absolutely blown away by Suede – who I hadn’t seen live since their Joiners gig in 1992 ( which Brett remembers with affection and mentioned, using its former name the Joiners Arms).

In the past I always mistook the bands demeanour for cockiness; an undeserved arrogance, but they work hard and maintain an air of justifiable confidence in their work.  A bit of preening and posing shouldn’t and doesn’t detract from that.  Brett is wearing extremely well when you compare him to contemporaries like Haines and Cocker.

 

The Best Band in Britain hype of 1992 meant I was cynical about them at the start. I was too enamoured with the Manics and later the Auteurs to take Suede to my heart.  When they played the Joiners there was a distinct bit of early Adam & the Ants about them so I was intrigued and liked them,  but with reservations . It was my wife who loved Suede more than me, a state of affairs which continues to this day, but more than ever before I finally ‘get’ Suede.

I remember my surprise when Brett admitted being inspired by Crass as a teenager, which is a pertinent yet bizarrely tenuous link with his Bowie fascination, The kids were so crass…   But Suede are just a different strain of punk (inspired) band.  They have something in common with the Banshees in there dark prime, thematically and occasionally sonically . Suburban lives and secrets. Dark narcotic and sensual obsessions. Drama and crescendo.

Bloodsports is definitely my most-played album of the year, and in my opinion “the best Bowie album of 2013”.  Musically it goes from U2-like grandiosity to Ju-Ju-period Banshees luminosity, touches of Luxuria (Noko & Devoto) , echoes of Lou Reeds Berlin, but is total Suede, an encapsulation of everything they have done and been inspired by and a definitive statement of an album that will sound better and better as the years go by.   What Are You Not Telling Me and Sometimes I Feel I’ll Float Away are absolutely stunning heartbreakers, one of which saw Brett singing whilst reclining on top of the speaker cabinets. Faultlines, Sabotage and Hit Me are majestic, sexy beasts too … there’s not a weak song on the whole of Bloodsports, nor in Suedes entire selection they played last night.

For a first night of the tour, following a day celebrating a print magazines Icon award, this was Suede thoroughly on form and on fire.  Well worth seeing if you can catch any of the dates on the rest of the tour.   I concede, finally, after 21 years, that Suede deserved and still are the Best (not-so-new) Band In Britain when it comes to  Fiction Romance Pop Music for the Beautiful Ones … and some who are just pretty on the inside.

 

All words Ged Babey. Live photo Robin Ball. More writing on Louder Than War by Ged can be found at his author’s archive.

Rest of the tour (UK)

24th Oct  Bristol  O2 Academy

26thOct    Leeds O2 Academy

27th  Oct   Glasgow  Barrowlands

28th Oct    Dublin  Olympia

30th  Oct   Manchester  Academy

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