Sometimes the average age of an audience can reveal a lot about who the band that they are watching appeals to. Tonight, the Academy in Bristol is packed with gig-goers of various different ages, showing that British indie legends Suede have had an impact on a cross-generational range of music fans. Some of the older ones here look like they were in their 20’s when Brett Anderson and his band set British music alight in the 1990’s, while a few look like they weren’t even born at the time ‘Dog Man Star’ was released. Possibly the largest percentage of this crowd seems to be made up of people my age, many of who were slightly too young to be able to see Suede in action before they went their separate ways a decade ago. Luckily the reunion wasn’t a one off, and following a fantastic comeback LP in the form of ‘Bloodsports’, Suede have been firing on all cylinders. Tonight sees them balancing out the inevitable nostalgia with the vitality of their new material, a set that summarises exactly where Suede are at this point: proud of their glorious past, enjoying the present, and positive about the future.
Beginning with the dark melodrama of ‘Pantomime Horse’, the audience are captured immediately as Brett’s voice soars across the venue. Judging by the amount of air punching in the crowd, the rousing ‘Barriers’ has already become an anthem, ‘Snowblind’ and ‘It Starts And Ends With You’ also proving themselves to be well regarded additions to the band’s catalogue. As Brett swings his mic in the air, the swaggering crunch of ‘Filmstar’ sends the audience mental before a powerful and truly anthemic ‘Trash’ has everyone singing at the top of their voices. Along with a superb ‘Animal Nitrate’, it’s a trio of classics that could match that of any band or artist.
A yearning ‘Heroine’ finds that incredible voice hitting every note, before its owner sits at the front of the stage to deliver the first part of ‘Sometimes I Feel I’ll Float Away’ in such a way that every member of the audience feels like he’s singing it directly to them. This more reflective but no less well received break from the megahits continues with the beautifully shadowy ‘Sabotage’, another ‘Bloodsports’ number that sits comfortably and proudly amongst all the familiar favourites, complete with some stinging guitar from Richard Oakes. By the time they treat us to a terrific blast through ‘The Drowners’, it’s clear that Brett and the band are having just as much fun as the crowd, ripping into each part as if it was being played for the very first time.
Brett is full of energy, moving as sharply as ever, jumping from amps, strutting around like he owns the place (tonight he REALLY does), striking poses and joyfully soaking up the adoration of the front row as countless hands reach for him, and a vast number of mouths sing his lyrics in ecstatic unison. Illustrating the huge number of incredible songs they have to choose from, they can even thrill with an old B side. In this case it’s the savage stomp of ‘Killing Of A Flashboy’, Anderson belting out its chorus like his life depends on it. In contrast, the splendid ‘Two Of Us’ takes us all back to haunting atmospheres and theatrical heartbreak while the dark, cautionary ‘The Big Time’ provides a superb intro to ‘For The Strangers’, a celebratory breeze that sounds every bit the classic Suede single that it is. When a band in their 40’s can pull of such a magnificently convincing ‘So Young’, it’s like the only thing the advancing years have done to these five men is made them a sharper, even more powerful unit. It’s one of those gigs where everything clicks into place, as an excellent setlist is brought to life by a group of musicians all on great form and buzzing off an enthusiastic crowd, who revel in a thrilling ‘Metal Mickey’ and a glorious ‘The Beautiful Ones’, bouncing fervently and singing blissfully like it’s 1996 all over again.
A triumphant ‘New Generation’ provides a stunning encore, a joyous moment that closes a magical night in epic fashion, the perfect ending to an incredible show that will last long in the memories of all here. There are even classic songs that they left out of the set simply because they can. Suede are certainly not short of brilliant tracks, in fact they can pick and choose from a wide, strong selection to make every set different yet equally enjoyable. But there was something particularly special about tonight. Armed with a vast supply of awesome songs and on top form, this seminal band delivered a dazzling, mind blowing and hugely memorable experience.