Suede at Alexandra Palace review: wholly predictable and explosively exciting


If any band was born to fill the old-school grandeur of Alexandra Palace with booming, swaggering, arena-sized melodrama, Suede fit the bill perfectly. “I love being back home!” bellowed their eerily ageless frontman Brett Anderson. “All the love and poison of London!” Politely overlooking the fact that the singer lives in sleepy rural Somerset these days, the crowd responded with hysterical cheers.

Lean and lithe, Anderson is in absurdly great shape for a 54-year-old former drug addict, his hollow-cheeked vulpine beauty increasingly reminiscent of Danish screen pin-up Mads Mikkelsen. His tirelessly athletic, hip-twisting, sweat-drenched performance during this show was as impressive as ever, and helps explain why Suede remain such an electrifying live spectacle even now, a decade into their second-act comeback.

Twice postponed for pandemic reasons, this show was ostensibly a 25th anniversary celebration of Suede’s third album, Coming Up, a 1996 chart-topper which spawned five Top Ten singles and sold over a million copies. Played live in sequence, the album held up very well as a coherent body of songs, from gloriously histrionic teen-outsider anthems such as Trash and Beautiful Ones to the achingly romantic power ballads By The Sea and The Chemistry Between Us.

After completing the album run-through, Suede played a further set packed with clobbering, snarling, sleaze-glam classics including We Are The Pigs, Metal Mickey and Animal Nitrate. An agreeable change of register came when Nadine Shah, the support act on this tour, reappeared to accompany Anderson on a stripped-down acoustic version of The Wild Ones. Shah’s bruised, sultry voice added some pleasingly bluesy shading to the Suede singer’s feral, declamatory roar.

Where does he get his energy? (Redferns)
Where does he get his energy? (Redferns)

Suede are essentially the Rolling Stones of Britpop nowadays, a reliably rowdy classic-rock band with a dynamic frontman who have been playing much the same crowd-pleasing greatest-hits set for decades. Even Anderson’s stage banter in Alexandra Place had a familiar ring. “Thirty years I’ve been standing in front of an AC30,” he declared, gesturing to the onstage amplifiers. “I’m going a bit deaf. I can’t hear you, are you cheering?” He made the same quip on the last Suede tour, two years ago. Then, as now, the audience responded with indulgent cheers. If rock star work ever dries up, Anderson could make a living as a pantomime dame.

Disappointingly, this show largely ignored Suede’s well-received trio of post-comeback albums, with their more experimental textures, lavish arrangements and spoken-word interludes. Instead, the band stuck within their middle-aged audience’s comfort zone, snorting thick lines of Nineties nostalgia, shaking their bits to the hits. They played safe, but with passion and energy and bucketloads of high drama. Once again, they pulled off the paradoxical trick of being both wholly predictable and explosively exciting.

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