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Three Songs No Flash

Flashboys Killing It: Suede Slay Their Demons With An Emphatic Return
Luke Turner , March 25th, 2010 15:21

At their trio of gigs in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust, Suede lay to rest the ghosts of Britpop and that guitarist, says Luke Turner

There are many very personal reasons why Suede at the 100 Club and last night at the Royal Albert Hall will be among my musical highlights of 2010. They were the band who changed my life, who showed me that music was something more than background noise. Suede led me to London, the place where you could escape the drudgery of the town you grew up in and reinvent yourself, even if some of that - the dyed red hair, earring, ladies blouse with black roses, tiny leather jacket, silver bracelets, skinny cords and black nail varnish – was liable to get you a kicking. Being a fan of Suede was like joining a family, and a diverse one at that. Which is why, while many scoffed at their reformation in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust, tonight is packed with people straight from the office, ageing fops, young bloods, a group of skinheads; all singing along to every word.

Say what you want about Brett Anderson's solo career – and people like to say a lot of generally very nasty things – his voice is now possessed of a richness it previously lacked. It's matched by a man who these days seems entirely comfortable with himself, wiggling around the stage with a flick of the fringe and none of the arse-slapping excess for which he was once parodied. He still has 5,000 people swooning. The entire band, in fact, appear healthier, more alert than ever they did when I last regularly watched them in the late 1990s. Neil Codling, last photographed with that most un-Suede of things, a straggly beard, is still an astounding bit of totty to suit discerning ladies and gentlemen everywhere. Back in the day notorious for behaving as if the effort of lifting a finger to play a note on the keyboards was an inconvenience that interrupted the consumption of his B&H, he adds whopping power chords on second guitar... the entire band play as if releasing seven years of pent-up aggression, as if to say how dare you have doubted us.

It was for good reason that Kurt Cobain was often photographed wearing a Suede badge. He could see, unlike so many of his fans, that Suede were, at heart, exactly the same as Nirvana: a taut punk group who wrote incredible pop songs with a romantic, political edge. It's arguable that only now, at the 100 Club, Manchester Ritz, and Royal Albert Hall have Suede shown what they were trying to do, and what they were truly capable of, all along: to sound like the Glitter Band playing Bowie in the style of Wire; art, sex, and outrageous simplicity in one perfect pop package. Quite why Blur's beerily sentimental festival singalongs or Oasis' moronically patronising and tuneless braggadocio have become the UK's 90s musical legacy is baffling in the face of the power and honesty of Suede's performances of the best of their back catalogue. Even the b-sides they leave on the shelf would make an album to put most others to shame.

Suede have finally slayed the demon of that floppy haired fellow behind the red guitar, and put to rest the terrible irony that, after putting an advert that read "some things are more important than ability" into the music press, they ended up with a bonkers muso called Bernard Butler. Indeed, it's strange that Butler has long been regarded as more talented than Anderson. His musical output since leaving Suede has consisted of one astounding single, two anaemic trad-rock solo albums and workmanlike production duties on a host of indifferent albums. Whatever, he's not missed – Suede were and are more important than how well one man can noodle on the guitar.

"I don't have anything to say about all this except it's been a lot of fun," says Brett Anderson before the encore of 'Saturday Night' that closes both London gigs. He adds, "let's do it again in seven years." There's just not a hint of nostalgia about any of these joyous events, which you can see when the ovation at the end of 'Metal Mickey' seems to catch the band off guard, Brett Anderson beaming from ear-to-ear... even Neil Codling breaks into a fit of pleased giggles. It's not yet clear whether there will be any further Suede gigs. In a way, it'd be perfect if there weren't, if these three special nights in Manchester and London would make for Suede's epitaph, a final vindication and celebration for band and for us, and the sod the rest of 'em. Suede following The Pixies path of becoming increasingly stale as they cynically churn out the hits without offering anything new would be a crying shame. Yet a rejuvenated Suede are on such astounding form that you can't help but hope they do give it another go, and silence the doubters with a dose of this wonderful, beautiful, love and poison.