So I knocked off work an hour early and hit the road on my own at 4, for a heavy traffic and (when in B’rum) red light-strewn journey, eventually parking up below the Mailbox about 6.30 and meeting Rach there, getting into the venue at 7 pm doors and finding a nice place down the front to stay and chat while the place filled up. Support act Teleman – not Tena Lady, as I’d cruelly dismissed them – kept us waiting until nearly 8, then played a brand of wide-eyed innocent jangle pop with some buoyant bleep-bleep synth throw in for embellishment. They had a very early to mid 80’s feel to their optimistic music, despite their opener nicking the descending verse structure from The Fixers’ “Majesties Ranch”, and another early warm, fuzzy number recalling Welsh psych-pop boyos Big Leaves. Good for starters, but too sickly sweet for me to eat a whole one.
The busy front got even busier – surely this was a sell-out on the night! – as a finicky soundcheck delayed Suede’s arrival until just after 9, by which time the audience were just about ready to pop. Coming on to orchestral music and opening with a slow-burn, dramatic opener “High Rising”, their subsequent acceleration into the superb opening triad from new album “Bloodsports” seemed more sudden as a consequence. “Barriers” saw vocalist and main driving force Brett Anderson in everyones’ face, exhorting the crowd to sing along; a magnificent “Snowblind” featured a strident chorus which pushed even Brett’s impressive dark voice thrillingly beyond its’ comfort zone; and Brett asked, “are you ready to rock – in a gothic kind of way?” before “It Starts And Ends With You’’s soaring chorus shook the rafters, Brett already helicoptering his mic wire and giving himself completely to the music with gleeful abandon. As did we, already wild moshpit-bound.
It got even better. “Trash” was immense, the communal singalong conducted by a flamboyant Brett, strutting and preening onstage like a King Peacock, the epicentre of the show, all fulsome gestures. He abandoned the stage during “Animal Nitrate”, delving into the front rows and eliciting frenzied responses, remaining there for the glam sleaze of “Filmstar”. The man certainly had his mojo working tonight, revelling in the manic crowd response and delivering a consummate frontman performance, his Bowie-esque late night vocals and gestures dovetailing perfectly.
Thankfully there was light and shade in the mix tonight; a well-paced set with some slower numbers to catch one’s breath. “Here’s one from the new album – actually you’ve been really good with the new album [songs], singing along; I like that!” announced Brett before the slower “Sometimes I Feel I’ll Float Away”. “The Drowners” took us right back to 1992, the slashing guitar riff and Bowie “Starman” chorus line resonating around the venue, and a heart cracking “Wild Ones” recalled Bowie’s “Sweet Thing” and acted as an all-inclusive manifesto.
“Metal Mickey” saw Brett diving into the front rows again, before a tremendous “Beautiful Ones” closed the set, the band returning for a brilliant, plangent “New Generation”, preceded by effusive words of praise from our articulate host (“we always have a good time when we get together”), who, sweat-soaked and breathless, had given his all tonight, along with his tight, impressive band. An evergreen performance from an enduring star. “Out of step”? P’fah, Suede have returned and are more fresh, relevant and vital than ever. On tonight’s form, miss them at your peril.