|Suede/Chapel Club - London, Brixton, O2 Academy - 20th May 2011|
|Written by Johnny H|
|Friday, 27 May 2011 05:00|
Back in the early nineties when Suede (or London Suede if you are reading this in the US of A) first entered into my life with their superb debut single 'The Drowners', they were the perfect high camp antidote for the grunge blues that were slowly turning me into a lover of knitwear. Fusing glam pop with 'Carry On' lyrical double entendres, Brett Anderson, Bernard Butler, Mat Osman and Simon Gilbert's music didn't really need NME to tell me they were "the best new band in Britain", I already bloody knew it.
I also didn't need the Indie press to tell me how essential the band's self-titled debut album was either, as it was an instant head rush of pouting rock cut up with some bargain basement chemical stimulants, with the likes of 'Metal Mickey' and 'Animal Nitrate' standing as some of the greatest singles of the much talked about Britpop generation. Then as if by some way of rejecting being lumped in with 'that' genre, Suede's next album was the soaring sonic masterpiece known as 'Dog Man Star' and that very album is the reason I made the trip up to Brixton tonight. Because if 'Nevermind' was the nineties 'Never Mind The Bollocks', then 'Dog Man Star' was certainly its 'Hunky Dory'. Now who is going to argue with that?
Well certainly not the Sold Out crowd assembled around me here tonight that's for sure. They are all here for the same reason as I am, for this the second of three consecutive nights staged to celebrate Suede's first three studio albums. With many of them attending all three shows this also forms a perfect launch platform for the upcoming expanded versions of the band's back catalogue set to be released over the summer months. It's just a shame Brett Anderson fails to mention this during tonights events, but hold on I'm running away with myself here.
First up tonight and welcoming the audience into the auditorium with some sombre Indie tunes were Chapel Club. This relatively newish London five piece were my own personal idea of musical hell, but the ripples of applause that rang out from those seeing the band for the second time in as many nights must have meant something to someone somewhere. Me, I managed to scribble down Coldplay, Talk Talk, Rialto and Gene in my list of possible comparisons before realising that I was actually only writing because I was bored stupid, so I guess you could say this encounter wasn't exactly what I would call a life changing event, and that's because Chapel Club make music for people with too much hair for their faces and who wear cardigans...Nuff Said?
Having seen Suede on every one of their UK tours up until they finally split in 2003, I guess you could call me a bit of a flash boy. When it was announced that the Neil Codling and Richard Oakes line up of the band had reformed at the start of 2010 initially for a one off event, living in Wales hardly gave me the chance to skip up to the smoke to live the dream once again, but this series of gigs at least meant I had the chance to cherry pick an era of the band to suit my purse strings, whilst still leaving enough spare change for a quick burst on the merch booth. Result....
Back in the early 90's the run up to a Suede live show was normally sound tracked by high camp disco music but tonight Lipps Inc have been swapped in favour of Public Image Ltd as Brett and the boys revisited their drug fuelled hedonistic days with maybe a smidgen more in the way of musical taste. That fact was further rammed down the throats of everyone within a mile of the PA as Suede finally strode out onto the stage to the closing strains of the Sex Pistols 'Bodies', not that you could hear it mind you, because as soon as Brett Anderson hit the stage the seismic level of cheering had the sound guys checking if they had lost power to the front of house system, believe me it was LOUD!
With the guys taking up their places looking pretty much exactly like they had never been away (Ok perhaps Richard could have maybe benefited from Brett's old Slimfast and nose candy diet) what followed was a master class in what made Suede so god damn special back in the day. Playing 'Dog Man Star' in sequence and in its entirety, the highlights of a pretty much faultless reproduction were a slow burn 'Daddy's Speeding', a strutting 'This Hollywood Life' and the best song ever to feature whistling in it 'New Generation'. The hits (of course) were all there as well ('We Are The Pigs and The Wild Ones' forming the bread to a very nice 'Heroine' sandwich), but you got the sense that it was the lesser-known tracks like 'Heroine' that the guys were perhaps enjoying more. However in saying that it was hard to tell with Brett Anderson as he had a perma grin tattooed across his finely formed face for all of tonight, this also rather oddly made him appear more Time Lord here in 2011 than the Gay Lord he once wanted so desperately to appear to be back in the nineties.
Speaking of which, the tortured genius of the album's last four songs may have seen events take a slight turn towards torch song territory, but the fragility of the set closing 'Still Life' complete with its orchestral outro (it may have been sampled but it certainly hit the spot) was a truly moving moment with only the prospect of the encores keeping everyone from reaching for their handkerchiefs for a good old blow of the hooter.
What was that about encores? With the prospect of a plethora of B Sides to chose from Brett reintroduced his band (or maybe he didn't) by way of a solo version of 'The Living Dead' that segued perfectly into an equally impressive 'My Dark Star' where finally we did see the full band return before the final track of the 1993 'Stay Together' EP the aforementioned title track, sent the now practically exhausted audience into the final straight. With the finish line almost in sight what better way to end tonight than with the sprint finish "one - two - three - four" of 'Killing Of A Flashboy', 'So Young', 'Metal Mickey' and 'Animal Nitrate'?
Then as the house lights went up to the strains of 'I'd Rather Go Blind' (see what I mean about their musical taste) enveloping the hall it suddenly dawned on me that although tonight was very much over for me a maybe a few others, a whole legion of the people around me would be back up Brixton way the following night for a run through the band's next album 'Coming Up'.