One day, I’ll be on my death bed pondering over a life of achievements and memories. Most likely, I settle some lists of my more memorable experiences and no doubt, a series of six concerts in just over a week from May 2011 will stand head and shoulders above the rest. When news first broke of Suede’s trilogy shows in London and Dublin over the latter half of 2010, I immediately thought to myself, “David, you need to be at these shows!” and of course, I was. It wasn’t easy though. The first agenda was securing tickets to each and every night at London’s Brixton Academy and the historical Olympia Theater in Dublin. I still remember the thrill when I finally captured tickets to all the shows. The buzz was immense and, a few weeks after, I had plane tickets booked to London. My only previous experience seeing Suede was at The Livid festival in Brisbane all the way back in 1999 though that was a timid affair as the band looked like they just didn’t want to be there (they had been on the road for 6 months prior) and being an Australian festival, they were considered too queer for the bogan audience in attendance. Because of this, Brett spent the evening on stage dodging bottles being thrown at him. It was sad really, watching my favorite band live for the first time and seeing them having to endure heckles like “Go back to England yer poofs” and “Fuck off the stage ya faggots!”. Yep, Australia rolled into one right there. Of course, it didn’t help that The Offspring were on their stage next so a high percentage of the crowd watching Suede were impatiently holding out for a rather boring band.
In early 2010, I had managed to follow Brett on some solo shows around France, Germany, Italy, England and Ireland. They were all fantastic gigs. Very intimate performances with Brett showcasing his talent as a solo artist. The Milan concert was the best in many respects because the venue, The Tunnel held only a couple of hundred people. It was almost as if he was performing in our living rooms.
Moving forward to the 2011 concerts. They were nothing short of sublime. The first night encompassed the debut LP in full with a selection of b-sides and hits as the encore. Night number two consisted of Dog Man Star, still one of my all time favorite albums and night three was dedicated to Coming Up. These two nights also included stunning encore performances of b-sides and hits. Once the series of shows were completed at Brixton, the band rested up for a few days before moving onto Dublin where they would do it all over again and then some. By the early 2000’s, it was becoming common for bands to re-visit albums in full before live audiences. The Cure were the first to launch the “trilogy” shows in 2002 with the collective sets from Pornography, Disintegration and Bloodflowers all being performed back to back. Robert Smith had earlier seen Bowie perform Low and Heathen in full a few months prior and said it was the best he’s seen Bowie in years so decided to take the concept a step further with the trilogy shows in Europe. Over the following decade, many bands took on the “complete” album performance concept where they could dip their hats to historically significant albums. Shows were often mainly for the purists and included rare material during the encores.
Seeing Suede up on stage performing this absurdly beautiful trilogy of records in full remains one of my greatest moments in life. All three records had seen seen me through high school and beyond with each release holding a special place in my heart for different reasons. If I had to chose one of these albums to take to my grave, it would be Dog Man Star. That album, without a shadow of a doubt is easily one of the most progressive LP’s from the past 50 years of recorded music. The gloomy soundscapes capture the band on the verge of self destruction as Bernard Butler had left before its release and with it, he deserted a soaring collection of songs that have not been bettered by the band before or since. Being able to hear The Asphalt World live on stage is something akin to heaven on earth. Richard Oakes somehow managed to master the song with near perfection. At one point during the show in Dublin, I closed my eyes during his solo and drifted off into another world all together. Honest to god, I wasn’t even on drugs at the time but fuck me, it was something else all together. The only way to have possibly better this performance would be transporting myself back to 1994 and hearing it live during the Dog Man Star tour or one step beyond that, being in the studio when Bernard was laying it down on tape.
I’ve got to stop myself here because I am doing an incredible injustice to both the debut album and the commercial charm of Coming Up. By 1996, Suede were top of the pops and producing TOP 10 UK singles without even trying. Their already magnificent collection of b-sides only added to the euphoria that surrounded the band during the mid 90’s. They were untouchable for around 5 years. Actually, the b-side were that good that Suede released a collection of b-sides (Sci-Fi Lullabies) and it reached number 9 in the U.K charts whilst garnering critical acclaim in the United States, something unheard of for British bands at the time. Essentially, Coming Up was the kind of album you would put on at a party and just let go from start to finish. Now, if you think that was a cracking album, how does one even begin to describe the bands debut offering in 1993? Let me try.
Off the back of grunge and house music, Suede’s self titled debut appeared in early 1993 where it shot to number 1 in the U.K charts, only to be knocked off the top, ironically, by Bowie’s Black Tie, White Noise in the April. The album was a fresh take on classic British production and for many, kick started what was to become the ill fated Britpop movement that would last for the remainder of the decade. England hadn’t witnessed such an important band since The Smiths a decade before. It wasn’t just the album itself that gained praise. Anderson’s sparkling on stage presence sparked plenty of attention from the press as he single handily put androgyny back in the spotlight. Bernard Butler was his Mick Ronson and together, they gave teenage boys and girls around Britain a very good reason to smile again. I can’t think of a combo that has lit the stage alive so well as these two did over such a short period. The album is a devastatingly powerful work of sheer genius so being able to hear it in full not once, but twice was a dream come true. Come to think of it, has there been a better debut album since Suede’s first offering. That’s 25 years of music under the bridge and I doubt I’ve heard a debut album that has captured the imagination of the public as strongly as this offering managed.
Another aspect of the shows led me to meeting some pretty amazing people, some of which I remain friends with to this day. With Suede touring again later this year, there is every chance I will be able to catch up with these lovely souls once more to embrace yet another coming of the band many had thought washed up after 2002’s A New Morning LP which was sadly (unfairly) savaged by fans and critics alike. The band have come out the other end and here’s to another few albums and tours before they finally decide to call it a day on one of the most substantial and important careers of modern times. May Suede live long and hard into our collective memories.
Suede – London – May 19 Set List: So Young/Animal Nitrate/She’s Not Dead/Moving/Pantomime Horse/Sleeping Pills/The Drowners/Breakdown/Metal Mickey/Animal Lover/The Next Life
Encore: High Rising /He’s Dead /My Insatiable One /To The Birds /Killing of a Flashboy/Can’t Get Enough/Trash/Beautiful Ones
Dog Man Star – London – May 20 Set List: Introducing The Band/We Are The Pigs/Heroine/The Wild Ones/Daddy’s/Speeding/The Power/New Generation
This Hollywood Life/The 2 Of Us/Black Or Blue/The Asphalt World/Still Life
ENCORE: Living Dead/My Dark Star/Stay Together/Killing Of A Flashboy/So Young/Metal Mickey/Animal Nitrate
ENCORE: Europe Is Our Playground/This Time/Young Men/Together/Can’t Get Enough/So Young/Metal Mickey/Animal Nitrate
ENCORE: He’s Dead/My Insatiable One/To the Birds/Trash/Beautiful Ones
ENCORE: Whipsnade/Killing Of A Flashboy/So Young/Metal Mickey/Animal Nitrate
ENCORE: Europe Is Our Playground/New Generation/Can’t Get Enough/So Young/Metal Mickey/Animal Nitrate