Suede unveiled their forthcoming album, Night Thoughts, on Friday with a global première at the Roundhouse in Camden. From behind a giant screen they played it live in its entirety as Roger Sargent’s accompanying film provided a loose visual representation.
As one song bled seamlessly in to the next, the film changed scenes: a haunted man walking out into the sea; lovers embracing; kids in hoodies on housing estates; people taking drugs; overdosing; having sex; loving; fighting; brandishing guns; screaming; being desperate and alone. You know, all the usual Suede themes. There were cars so there would’ve been fumes too. To be honest I found it a bit distracting and would’ve preferred to simply see the band play, although a whole album of unheard material isn’t the most entertaining thing in the world. It reminded me of when The Style Council played their Jerusalem film at the Royal Albert Hall gigs and my mates headed to the bar grumbling loudly about “pretentious bollocks”. Suede fans however are far more tolerant of such grandiose artistic gestures.
The album itself sounded big and bold and dramatic. From only one hearing I’m not going to make any final assessment but I’d venture it’s a step up from the previous Bloodsports, and that was good. After the final track they disappeared (not that they could be seen very clearly beforehand) and had their half time orange before returning in the second half for what they promised would be a “Hits and Treats” set.
I don’t know what Suede did during their lost years to come back such a phenomenal live act but that’s what they are. The best there is. I saw them a dozen times when they first started, those early gigs at the South Africa Centre, the Rough Trade shop, the 100 Club, even suffering the ignominy of supporting such doggerel as Kingmaker and they weren’t like anybody else then but the flouncing, foppish, arse slapping Brett Anderson has been transformed.
Brett Anderson is a beast. A beautiful beast. A beautiful, lean, mean, fighting machine, rock star beast. Fitter than an army of fleas in a scuzzy mattress, Brett bounces up and down, leaps off monitors, shouts and does the “come on then, let’s have it” fingers, shakes his head, lassoes his microphone lead a la Daltrey and works the band and crowd into a frenzy. He is magnificent in this role, pulling out all the stops, and Suede have the knockout material to back all his showboating. Big hit singles, album tracks, obscure B-sides ('Darkest Days' had previously passed me, thanks for drawing it to my attention), all relentless in their majestic swagger. Even “The Living Dead”, a delicate lament, is transformed into a joyous lullaby with Anderson leaving much of singing to the audience. “Where’s all the money gone? I’m talking to you, all up the hole in your arm” they chant like it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. A clean Brett grins like a cat with a never ending supply of cream.
They departed for a phony encore with Anderson telling the crowd to wait a minute. They do, naturally, and after beginning the evening with their newest recordings they end with their oldest, all three tracks from their 1992 debut single: ‘The Drowners’, ‘My Insatiable One’ and ‘To The Birds’. Incredible. Where do the years go? ‘To The Birds’ my absolute favourite Suede song – and I have many – what a treat. What a band.
Set 1: When You Are Young, Outsiders, No Tomorrow, Pale Show, I Don’t Know How To Reach You, What I’m Trying To Tell You, Tightrope, Learning To Be, Like Kids, I Can’t Give Her What She Wants When You Were Young, The Fur & The Feathers
Set 2: Moving, Killing Of A Flash Boy, Trash, Animal Nitrate, We Are The Pigs, Heroine, Pantomime Horse, The Living Dead, Darkest Days, New Generation, So Young, Metal Mickey, Beautiful Ones, The Drowners, My Insatiable One, To The Birds
Night Thoughts is released 22 January 2016.