Suede, you big brilliant bastards. Eight years and three albums in, can we really call this a comeback anymore? Whatever we call it, it’s phenomenal. After a great deal of intense contemplation, I’ve realised that I can count on one finger the number of bands that have successfully returned after a decisive split with not only their best-ever live shows, but new material that stands up comfortably against the rest of their back catalogue. And that one finger is counting the band I’m writing about now. Whatever we call it, if we consider their current tour and recent album The Blue Hour, this isn’t just a comeback. This is a victory lap, flicking the V’s in the face of anyone foolish enough to doubt them. The proof? During the choruses of ‘It Starts & Ends With You’ (from 2013 album Bloodsports), frontman Brett Anderson holds the mic out to the audience and seemingly every single person in the room sings it back at him.
Anderson isn’t content with owning the stage. He wants to own the whole venue. He wants your attention, and he wants ALL OF IT. The set starts from behind a thin white drape, the bands’ shadows projected dramatically onto it for the opening one-two of ‘As One’ and ‘Wastelands’, but as soon as it’s gone he’s off. Stalking across the stage, swinging his microphone and bouncing around, wiggling his hips and throwing himself into the audience. You suddenly remember he turned 51 a week or two back and start wondering where the HELL he gets his energy. I’m not 51, I’m reasonably healthy and I don’t have that sort of sustained performance in me. What am I doing wrong? Not that he’s alone – the whole band are relentlessly tearing through the set with a brutally efficient zest. This treatment is given to songs new and old: the set is split evenly between material from The Blue Hour and the remainder of their back catalogue, but the pace rarely drops.
This being a Suede gig, the crowd-pleasers come from the strangest places. I mean, yeah, ‘Trash’, ‘Animal Nitrate’, ‘Metal Mickey’ and ‘Beautiful Ones’ are all big singalongs, but ‘Dolly’ – a b-side they’ve not played live in 26 years that didn’t even make it on to the tracklisting of b-sides compilation Sci-Fi Lullabies – has people at the back of the venue losing their shit, as does Dog Man Star album track ‘The 2 Of Us’. Though the undisputed highlight has to be an unamplified acoustic version of ‘Pantomime Horse’, which begins with the crowd shushing each other so Brett can be heard and ends with a room full of people bellowing “HAVE YOU EVER TRIED IT THAT WAAAAAY-HAAAAY?”
As everyone files out of the venue at the end of the night, I see something unexpected: young people. Not just young people, but young Suede people. They’re dressed in black. Their eyeliner is pristine. They’re in black leather 70s-style bomber jackets and their fringes are set to Brett. This hits me as the best thing about the Suede ‘comeback’, regardless of how we label it. It’s not just a bunch of middle-aged Britpoppers reliving their youth (though we are present). This is reunion as living, breathing, fully-animated band proper, delivered with the energy of much younger men, and it’s brilliant.