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Saturday Deluxe / 13 Feb 2016

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Suede / Live in London –  12 Feb 2016

A fine evening last night in North London in the company of Suede as they played in what was The Town and Country Club in Kentish Town, but is now (unfortunately) called the O2 Forum (having previously been the HMV Forum).

The show was split in two, with the first part devoted to their new album Night Thoughts followed (after a brief interval) by 70 minutes of the audience shaking their bits to the hits.

I’m really enjoying the new record and after a 50-minute walk late in the evening last week with Night Thoughts as my soundtrack, I can confirm that it’s perfect listening in the dark, amongst the streetlights and wind of North London.

Back to the gig. The staging was simple yet effective, with the band playing behind a screen upon which Roger Sargent’s ‘feature film’, commissioned to accompany the long-player, was projected. At first I thought ‘hiding’ the band like this was rather self-consciously ‘arty’, but Brett and co. cleverly shone through the filmed visuals regularly, something that was stunningly effective when they appeared to be underwater at the beginning as the bearded protagonist in the film (cheer up, mate) was despairingly walking chest-deep out to sea, seeking some kind of watery redemption. Or as I commented to my companion, “he’s doing a Reggie Perrin”.

That jokey reference points to a deeper truth, which is that although doing the film was a pretty good idea, for me the visuals added a big fat zero to the enjoyment of the album and were strangely unengaging, although it was a decent enough spectacle in the live environment. Suede could learn a thing or too from Steven Wilson whose animations genuinely do add an extra dimension, and often an alternative narrative, to his music.

No matter, Night Thoughts is Suede’s most enjoyable, consistent and ‘playable’ album since Coming Up and hearing it live and in full, was a real treat, even if there was an embarrassingly loud amount of chatter at the back of the venue during the quiet bits (some people!) – presumably by a subsection of the audience who thought having to listen to the new album was a-price-worth-paying to get the hits (Brett would later make a jokey, but pointed reference to this by saying “you can talk about fucking Eastenders when you get home”).

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Suede played Night Thoughts in full

‘Part two’ of the evening felt like an hour-long encore. The studied concentration of performing Night Thoughts was done with and Brett, Mat, Simon, Richard and Neil let rip with a 15-song sequence that kicked off with a quartet of classics: This Hollywood Life, Killing Of A Flashboy, Trash and Animal Nitrate. Wow. Brett was 100% committed to the task at hand and was clearly enjoying himself as he starting chatting to the audience, regularly diving in amongst the fans, much to the delight of the 2,300 capacity crowd.

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Brett got up close and personal

Suede only played one track from 1999’s Head Music – an acoustic Everything Will Flow (“a good song from a bad album” said Brett) – and nothing from A New Morning. This was very much about the strength of the first three records, underlined by how relatively feeble For The Strangers (from 2013’s Bloodsports) sounded amongst the classics.

The clock clicked past 11pm as the band finished To The Birds but you don’t go into rock ‘n’ roll to respect curfews, so one final number – a rather loose, but ecstatic New Generation – closed a memorable evening.

In the pub afterwards we pondered how and why it all went so wrong for Suede – after just four years and three great albums it was all over, creatively. I wasn’t totally convinced after the ‘comeback’ record Bloodsports, but with the arrival of the genuinely immersive Night Thoughts, and last night’s live tour-de-force, Suede are truly worthy of all the plaudits being heaped upon them.

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Set two was packed with classics

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18 responses to Saturday Deluxe / 13 Feb 2016

  1. Ken Murphy says:

    Saw them in Dublin on Wednesday night and thought the whole thing was fantastic. Brett even admonished one of the audience members for talking during the show when he went walkabout!

  2. gb says:

    just got back to leicester. so happy. 2nd song really got me. also track 4. I knew about that song, and the ‘never works out for me’ lyric. loved the the film. very moving. really liked hearing the new songs in this context. looking forward to hearing the cd now. 2nd part was great. everything I could have wanted. first saw suede in 1994, great to be reminded why a band means so much to you.

    ps/ looked out for you Paul ;)

  3. gb says:

    totally agree about ‘For The Strangers’ – no idea why they played that. I think ‘Barriers’ is a lot stronger and would have fitted in really well. either that or Snowblind. agree with you about that album. I do think it starts off really really strong … but just from hearing the new album last night, I know I’m really going to like it all.

  4. Gary says:

    Nice review Paul. I used to be a huge Suede fan too, but went off them after Coming Up. Btw it’s Killing of a Flashboy. I’ll give the new album a listen on the back of this review.

  5. Kenny R says:

    Saw them in Glasgow on Monday night, absolutely fantastic. Almost as good as the 2013 Barrowlands gig (but not quite). Listened to Night Thoughts a lot and I really like it!

  6. Nigel Yates says:

    I also saw Suede on Wednesday in Dublin and I felt the film really enhanced the strong performance of Night Thoughts! In fact, after listening to the album on my way to work, in work, and on my way home, I think Night Thoughts is strong enough to rival my favourite Suede album, Dog Man Star!

  7. JasonC says:

    Another Dublin attendee. It’s great to see that the hits half in London was quite a different setlist to Dublin. I really wanted Flash Boy and For The Strangers, and would have loved to hear To The Birds. We didn’t get Pantomime Horse either. What we got instead was Moving, Head Music’s Down (wouldn’t have predicted that) and Sabotage from Bloodsports. Nice to know they mix things up. And they still left out loads: The Drowners, The Wild Ones, By The Sea, Saturday Night, Insatiable One, My Dark Star. The night really made Night Thoughts for me too.

  8. RJSWinchester says:

    I saw them supporting REM on their European tour in Oberhausen in 1999, with Wilco third on the bill! I didn’t think Head Music was as bad as most people thought and I particularly liked ‘She’s in Fashion’. Haven’t bought an album of theirs since or listened to them in years (changing tastes and all that).

  9. Giles says:

    Paul, thanks for the review. I saw them at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall – a great venue for this kind of presentation and the audience was very attentive. I found the Night Thoughts section with the movie was really quite moving and reinforced the late night under sodium lights character of the music, glad I didn’t miss this gig. The Special Edition with the Hardbook is nicely put together but maybe not worth the significant premium over the simple double disc – while the music is the main thing having the DVD in this instance is actually compulsory.

  10. Wax Monster X says:

    Once drove from Chicago to Toronto just to see them as they were not keen on lots of US dates. Hope they come round this time. Digging the new disc as well. A welcome return to form.

  11. aubrey says:

    Sounds like a good gig, Paul. Love the new album. The songs are really strong and it actually works as a complete album (and how often can you say that about the output of their peers these days?) Also, it feels like someone in the band was listening to a lot of John Barry (which is never a bad thing!). Who would have thought Suede would produce the second best album of their career now?

  12. Gary C says:

    Looking at the set lists from this tour, did the ICA album nights they did a few years back ever get released commercially? I have a Bootleg compiling the best of the week run, but what I’d love to get my hands on is the nights they did Head Music and A New Morning…

  13. Gazelle says:

    I went to the gig at The Forum on Friday night as well. It served to illustrate how successful the band’s reformation has been: the opportunity to create new music and present it in its entirety in a novel way, coupled with the excuse to gloriously perform high-points from the early chapters of their back catalogue.

    For me, the ‘Night Thoughts’ set didn’t really connect; I was too close to the stage (screen) to appreciate the filmed narrative and the band seemed a little stilted with no visible audience to play off. However, following the removal of the screen, Anderson proved yet again that he is the consummate frontman as the band ploughed through an energetic set of ‘Hits & Treats’, the highlights inevitably coming from the b-sides of the Butler-era: an acoustic ‘High Rising’ (‘So Young’), a frenzied ‘Killing Of A Flashboy’ (‘We Are The Pigs’) and a ragged ‘To The Birds’ (‘The Drowners’).

    Interesting to see from the setlist photo above that ‘Introducing The Band’ appears to have been dropped at the last minute for ‘This Hollywood Life’.

    I understand that the “second set acoustic slot” has been subject to change throughout this tour – ‘Leaving’ (30/01/2016 Utrecht), ‘The Big Time’ (01/02/2016 Copenhagen), ‘Europe Is Our Playground’ (02/02/2016 Oslo), ‘Another No One’ (03/02/2016 Stockholm), ‘My Dark Star’ (05/02/2016 Hamburg), ‘The Sound Of The Streets’ (06/02/2016 Brussels), ‘This Time’ (08/02/2016 Glasgow), ‘Obsessions’ (09/02/2016 Manchester), ‘Down’ (10/02/2016 Dublin) and the aforementioned ‘High Rising’ (12/02/2016 London) – alongside the nightly acoustic take of ‘Everything Will Flow’ in the encore, this suggests the possibility of a live acoustic release?

  14. Paul M says:

    Saw them in Kingston the night before the release of Night Thoughts. An audience consisting of absolute devotees [ like me , who loved it], or bewildered indie fans. The only song I recognised was It Starts and Ends With You, but to see a once great band regain their credibility with the balls to play a whole new unreleased album and then walk off with no second seat was such a pleasant change as the band allowed the music to speak for itself. Still essential, still Suede.

  15. ChristopherM says:

    UK readers can catch Suede (and Underworld) live on BBC Red Button right now. Thirty minutes of each, repeated in rotation.

  16. PAUL FRASER says:

    It was a sweet moment when Brett mentioned the Bull & Gate next door, and how it was the only venue that would let them play back in the really early 90s. Brett looked truly revitalised, and this more emotive and less mannered stage presence suits him very well.

    One of the more delicious moments was the irony of folks in their 30s and 40s singing along to ‘So Young’ with gusto. But Brett made us feel like kids in our teens and 20s that night, so thanks for that. Anderson is not a rock star going through the motions, as a viewing of his 6 Music performance on iPlayer will show (check it out).

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