Radsound // Live: Suede – Camden Roundhouse – 14.11.15
Originally published on Radsound.
As a crowd similarly recognisable to the night prior – completely undeterred by its shocking neighbouring events – occupied the Roundhouse with not an inch of space left, a cinema screen swamping the stage lit up with the French flag. Red, white and blue was thrown across the venue in a defiant haze and, almost instantly, the Saturday night of Suede‘s Night Thoughts premiere took on a role of much deeper unexpected poignancy. Drifting onstage understandably later than planned backed by industrialised noise and a scream of the album’s title, making for enough to unsettle anyone, the five piece launched into the rousing, orchestral-delving ‘When You Are Young’, masked behind the visuals of a man submerging himself into the murky depths of a British coastline, and the tone for the night was set.
As the sinking began, ‘Outsiders’, the outfit’s first single from the album, burst through a scene of the main protagonists’ entangled underwater kisses whilst spotlights were thrown on the band as the chorus erupted and the audience – word perfect – chanted along in an air of inclusivity. With the sentiment of the moment it felt like Night Thought’s closest anthemic answer to ‘Trash’, an impressive feat. Next, with an unfaltering falsetto rarely heard from any singer over 45 these days, ‘For Tomorrow’ proved itself as Suede’s potential next great hit in an apt sense of living in moment – ‘fight the sorrow/like there’s no tomorrow’. Falling to his knees with fists full of emotion at every instant, Brett Anderson proved his frontman accolades as the screen lit up to reveal the band beneath shots of the mundane everyday cafe, flashing up in a whole new light of ’90s tinged surreality.
Previously aired tracks ‘What I’m Trying To Tell You’ and ‘I Don’t Know How To Reach You’ followed suit in proving the outfit are still more than capable of writing meaningful hits, with the former taking on a stomping sense of funk visible in the unstoppable moves of bassist Mat Osman and the latter building into a tide of convulsing guitars and fiercely ardent vocals, both dealing with the onscreen appearances of despairing broken love.‘Tightrope’ however came as the standout for the senses, a sullenly dark ballad reinvented as a string driven affair with ‘on the edge’ desperation echoing in every word of Anderson’s typically twisted lyrics. Whilst drawing in the entire room with stirring visuals of a small, blonde boy tearing through fields of maize before drowning in the sea as his father watches on, it was arguably the most painful moment of a strikingly bleak film, but one where the music and film perfectly combined in the way the band and director Roger Sargent envisaged and made for more than enough of the high art kitchen sink drama it promised to be.
With the visual drama unfolding itself in disturbed routes of writhing naked bodies, frantic dancing figures and a healthy dose of red vomiting, ‘Like Kids‘, another standout gem from Night Thoughts, soundtracked. With signature riffs and Brett Anderson’s cries of ‘Oh it’s a part of us/Oh we hold it in our pretty fists/Like kids/Like savages’ echoing the carefree misfit existence of younger lives – a central theme to the audiovisual submersion, it demonstrated another attempted crowd singalong moment likely to be an admirable new shot to stand up alongside the band’s more classic hits.
Finally, as the film cut back to one final walk on the beach, an eerie reprise of the first track ‘When You Were Young’ washed over into ‘The Fur and The Feathers’ and documented the protagonist slipping back under the ocean as Anderson fell to his knees once more with a sighing reflection on ‘the thrill of the chase’, culminating the album’s intense journey.
Proving to be a visceral masterpiece for eyes and ears, Night Thoughts drew on the darkest depths of the band’s previous material and though comparisons to Dog Man Star would be too easy, the effects were far more true to life in the circumstances of the Roundhouse that night and overwhelmed the venue as the band crept offstage – but naturally, they weren’t quite finished yet.
With an hour left until curfew and a crowd left craving a dose of familiar Suede energy after the sombre sense of the LP, the band swiftly thrashed back onstage to the notes of ‘This Hollywood Life’, with the entire room visibly driven by a sudden contrast of freneticism, passion and anger at outside events, and remained that way. Taking suit with its ‘Hits & Treats’ dubbed title, barely a word was uttered as the band fell full force into a triple shock of ‘Killing Of A Flashboy’, ‘Trash’ and ‘Animal Nitrate’ and each face lit up screaming every word impassioned and united, dragging Anderson into their clutches as if their lives depended on it at any given opportunity. As a typically first two album heavy set followed, the treats came as further delights to even the most dedicated, with the appearance of 1999’s beautifully subdued Head Music B side ‘Heroin’ causing one nearby forty something man to let out an unheard of scream in sheer joy. Similarly, rarely played Suede LP snippet ‘Animal Lover’ sent the 1,700 strong crowd into the sort of unadultered frenzy that the track likely conjured up when the outfit were still playing dingy basements in 1992.
Before slipping off into an encore revealed by Brett in typically enigmatic fashion, ‘I’m going to have a heart attack, do you want some more?…These are the last ones, till we come back and play some more!’, ‘Metal Mickey’, ‘So Young’ and inevitably ‘Beautiful Ones’ unleashed the last doses of energy, with Anderson jumping into the audience to be half mauled in a sea of ‘La la la”s. It left Richard Oakes to take centre stage, commanding a wall of squealing guitar riffs – remaining as encapsulating now as they were twenty years ago – as Anderson disappeared in their wake.
Silently strolling back onstage in the aftermath of a hits assault with a crowd unsure quite what more they could do – having struck out every hit possible crammed into a mere hour, the band sidled into the epic latter half of 1994’s Dog Man Star, dedicating it to the victims of the Parisian attacks. ‘The 2 Of Us’ brought sombre tears before the intensity of ‘The Asphalt World’ and a soaring, emphatic performance of ‘Still Life’ let loose all sense of emotion in the venue. The outfit had hit their stride, softly nodded and then swept off into the night.
With two sold out nights of awe-striking musical power, Suede have proved themselves to be the only band currently that can play a brand new, unknown album from start to finish without alienating their entire audience – a feat unheard of in a world full of shuffle modes and Spotify mood playlists. On top of that they’ve devised a concept LP that neither strikes the sheer absurdity of certain 70s prog-rock crashes nor the clichéd mists of straight-form storytelling which alone deserves them all the praise they can get. Furthermore, when coupling this with a second set containing enough hits to please the more casual goers and enough rarities to leave any die-hard sat on the pavement for 12 hours prior in shock, the five piece are truly showing they are far from a nostalgia trip by this point. In their 25th year, Suede are unstoppable, and it’s far from over yet.
Photos by Carla Salvatore http://csalvatore.format.com