Featured image and gallery by Georgina Hurdsfield
Now that Suede have more records released following the turn of the century than before it, it’s disingenuous to lump in them in with other still touring 90s contemporaries and make any accusations along the lines of nostalgia baiting avarice/age related decline.
Indeed, while nobody goes to a Blur gig to hear songs off that album they did with the ice cream on it, Brett Anderson and co. keep on adding value. 2022’s Autofiction charmed critics and secured a second place weekly chart finish, pipped to top spot by Blackpink who are, according to Google, far too successful for me to have ignored. I’ll hand in my badge and gun.
So although the first two records remain my favourites, released in the Britpop era and managing to have integrity to boot (their second album and magnum opus Dog Man Star belongs in every self respecting muso’s collection), seeing Suede in 2023 is still a very appealing prospect. They’ve called Autofiction their “punk record” and debuted it live under a new moniker, Crushed Kid, at small shows – album in full, no hits, no encore. They’re back to being Suede for their nationwide tour though, and the poster promises they’ll throw some of the “classics and hits” in too.
Stop five of the tour is Manchester’s Albert Hall, a venue that I always catch colds at but remains one of the city’s best. The support band are called Desperate Journalist (opportunity here for the reader to write their own joke), their name taken from a John Peel Session recording by The Cure that rewrites ‘Grinding Halt’ to poke fun at Paul Morley.
Unsurprisingly they draw heavily on post-punk and goth, plus a bit of that nonchalant sprechgesang thing that you need nowadays if you want to get on the 6Music playlist.
Some creative interpretation on the groups part of their listed start time means the crowd is pretty full already. I’ve got no complaints, if you pay fifty quid for a ticket and don’t watch the support band then you’re mugging yourself. This one is SOLD OUT sold out. I’ve been to plenty of sold out gigs here and had room to breathe, but not tonight. I imagine that’s why Suede have to come back in a fortnight for another show.
Predictably the set goes hard on the new record, but there’s some diversions that feel at least on the surface impromptu and Manchester designed. ‘High Rising’ is given an airing it seems other cities haven’t had, prefaced with a story about the Britannia Hotel.
An early two punch of ‘The Drowners’ and ‘Animal Nitrate’ sees frontman Brett Anderson writhe and disappear into the crowd for a few moments only to be held aloft in kingly fashion. This happens a few times over the night, and though though his shirt is visibly soaked fairly quickly I suppose such a level of fandom means you forgive the bloke for sweating on you.
Album tracks, hits and classics (as the poster promised) are spurned out over and over. ‘The Wild Ones’ is stripped back to its intimate bones but remains anthemic – man, guitar and the audience as a near-capacity choir.
The last half hour of the set, filled with big hits (‘The Beautiful Ones’), fan favourites (‘The Wild Ones’, ‘So Young’, ‘Metal Mickey’) and the best newbies (‘She Still Turns Me On’, ‘Shadow Self’, Black Ice’) is probably the best bit of live music I’ve heard this year. I fill most of my reviews with quips and pretence, but some things are absolutely brilliant and merit acknowledgement. To have a whole room eating from your hands in such a way requires a level of mastery few groups have.
Coming back on to play ‘Trash’ and have a whole venue belting it out back at the stage is the cherry on top, and though the one-song encore is a bit disappointing when there’s still so much you were hoping you’d hear, they’ve earned a rest.
I am usually already ready to go when sets finish. Even at gigs I’m enjoying a part of me always wills it to end. It’s the same with films and football matches too – I guess my tolerance for anything rarely survives too far past an hour. The rotten weather may have a part to play here, but I would’ve stuck around for a further five songs at least. A high compliment.