H&H // LIVE: SUEDE, EAGULLS – ROYAL ALBERT HALL – 30/03/14
Originally posted on Hooting & Howling
Twenty years ago, the release of ‘Dog Man Star’ was largely a big deal for Suede, having shaken arrangements by switching Butler’s guitar work for an unfathomably young and talented Richard Oakes and gathered an increasing congregation off the back of their debut a year prior, they still had quite a lot to prove. Thankfully, when the LP did hit the shelves in late ’94, it became a natural epic that swiftly cut away the doubt with a fair amount of soaring genius and soon became vastly argued as the outfit’s masterpiece. So understandably when they took to the stage of the Royal Albert Hall for the last of the Teenage Cancer Trust series last week to celebrate ‘Dog Man Star’ riding high from the success of 2013’s comeback ‘Bloodsports’ and a mesmerizing warm up show the Friday prior – 4 years to the date of their unexpected comeback of the same occasion, expectations were notably high, and as the hours fell, the outfit proved themselves to be still more than capable of making their past efforts surpass the ideas of even the cult indignantly perched on the pavement from the early hours, and incredibly so.
Before Suede set to work however, came support in the form of the monstrous tones of Eagulls. The five piece swiftly took to the stage, masterfully nonplussed by the albeit diverse crowd and sound issues they faced, and tore through a handful of tracks from their recent eponymous debut with the energy of thousands.
With the set’s constraints packing the thunderous types in, latest single ‘Nerve Endings’ kickstarted the set with a wall of psychedelically twisted punk and standouts came thick and fast with tracks like ‘Tough Luck’ and ‘Footsteps‘ harnessing the sheer musical power behind frontman George Mitchell’s angsty growls and proving worthy of any moshpit in the land – though somewhat unfortunately non existent ones in this case.
Closing the set with the eruption of ‘Possessed’, the outfit established themselves as quite something live on top of the blisteringly brilliant tracks featured on the album, and might just be onto something this year.
All too soon, however, the venue was united in the raspy shouts of Sex Pistols’ ‘Bodies’ with dry ice and sharp silhouettes darting onto stage starting the haunting tones of ‘Introducing The Band’, and from the first swivel of Mat Osman’s hips, the power of the band’s 1994 epic was unleashed in full flow.
The first hour saw the outfit impressively soar through the album in it’s entirety to an intensely eager crowd – within 5 minutes and before the majesty of ‘We Are The Pigs’ had reached the first chorus Brett Anderson had flung himself into the clutches of the front row and beyond evidently losing a button or two, setting the tone for the night.
Swiftly storming through ‘Heroine’ with much the same energy, made way for a soaring string-fueled rendition of ‘The Wild Ones’ already stealing some of the dry eyes in the house before ‘Daddy’s Speeding’ stole the thunder completely and drew the crowd into an intense 5 minutes of soul stealing stare outs with Anderson himself and moments of euphoria led by the haunting distortion of Oakes’ guitar and the stark piano jolts of Neil Codling, conjuring up a power left unsurprisingly unmatched by ‘The Power’ itself – they try don’t they?
Thankfully, the double shot of ‘New Generation’ and ‘This Hollywood Life’, both still standing as masterful slices of guitar fueled singalong brilliance picked things back up in time for the still very much energetic crowd to burst back into life before being swept back into an impressively heartbreaking rendition of ‘The 2 Of Us’ – carried out with Anderson curled into a ball on the stage on his knees pouring out sheer emotion and a dip into ‘Black Or Blue’ to prove the high notes still can in fact be hit, and with much gusto at that.
Then, as nudges of anticipation filled the room, came ‘The Asphalt World’, the track regarded as everyone I’d spoken to’s favourite, and an unfortunately neglected one live, that was unsurprisingly one of the set’s high points, building up the cries of Anderson into an intense guitar solo of psychedelic realms and fading into oblivion, by the end it was arguably a religious experience for all involved. Lastly, after a heartfelt dedication to Anderson’s late father who “used to bring me here all the time”, came ‘Still Life’, the soaring epic finale of ‘Dog Man Star’ and when complete with strings live, a track like no other, sending the entire hall into rapturous applause by the time the crashes of Simon Gilbert kicked in and more than a few tears streaming down the faces as they fled offstage – they’ve certainly still got it, and it’s enough to give you goosebumps everytime.
However with no time at all to bask in the album’s limelight, the outfit were back onstage stamping through criminal B-side ‘Killing Of A Flashboy’ before treating the diehards to the rarely aired trio of ‘Whipsnade’, ‘My Dark Star’ and Oakes’ even more seminal than before first offering ‘Together’, all received with mild mass hysteria and arms clamouring everytime Anderson strutted by – another button gone.
‘Filmstar’ took a step back onto familiar ground, leading the way for a quick interjection of dance inducing hits with ‘Trash’ – the ultimate anthem to anyone surrounding and including myself, ‘Animal Nitrate’ and latest gem ‘It Starts And Ends With You’ causing the entire hall to shout along with the Brett-isms as if their lives depended on it.
Silence fell long enough for the man himself to introduce a new track by the name of ‘ I Don’t Know How To Reach You’ – a typically dark Suede-y affair with piercing guitars and a punk-esque climax of dramatic screams that raised the bar of anticipation for ‘Bloodsports’ follow up even more considerably whilst the madness was briefly juxtaposed by heartwrencher ‘The Living Dead‘, incredibly sung off mic by Anderson and only accompanied by the lone Oakes’ acoustic it filled the venue with a strange sense of sombre sobriety, though one naturally short lived as the single circuit came back in full force with the ‘lighters out, chanting on’ ‘For The Strangers’ and the smashes of 1993’s ‘So Young’ and ‘Metal Mickey’ – still complete with killer hair swishing solo.
Penultimately came ‘Beautiful Ones’ – still standing as brilliantly as it did in ’96 and enough to conjure up grins on the faces of all – then a trio of sax players edged their way onstage for ‘Stay Together’ in it’s full length glory and with Anderson flinging himself into the crowd, Osman singing as enthusiastically as the rest of the room and Codling still singing higher than anyone else in the room whilst Oakes and Gilbert commanded the musicality side of things alongside the mini orchestra crammed onstage, by the final understated piano outro the entire hall was on it’s feet, the majority left awestruck and gazing questionably at each other as the outfit darted off the stage, humble nods in tow.
In 2 and a half hours, Suede managed to fit in a masterpiece album, enough b-sides to shellshock even the diehards and enough hits to keep everyone else in the loop, and if nothing else that’s a feat to be admired – but when done with the energy and utter brilliance they did, you can only be thankful they came back when they did, and stole the rightful crown of Britpop reunions once and for all.