Suede 'young' thing

Suede 'young' thing


The Coliseum, Hard Rock Hotel

Last Friday

Suede's 1996 concert at London's Hanover Grand is legendary among its fans. Written off by the British music press after losing guitarist Bernard Butler, the Britpop vanguards bounced back by unveiling a new keyboardist, a new musical direction and a raft of new songs which eventually formed their most commercially successful album, Coming Up.

Seventeen years later, a similar sense of purpose pervades Suede's long-awaited sixth album, Bloodsports, and its accompanying tour.

This time around, they are eager to prove that their 2010 reunion was not a quick nostalgia cash-in. Rather, it is an attempt at historical revisionism: exorcising the ghost of 2002's formulaic, lacklustre A New Morning, which precipitated their demise.

For a band so closely associated with the young, hedonistic lifestyle they used to write about, they cannot credibly achieve the same success by writing about the same themes now that they are older.

But they have already won the first half of the battle. Bloodsports scraped into the UK Top 10 upon its release in March and has been hailed as a return to their mid-1990s peak with a mature slant.

It is a sign of the band's confidence in their new material that seven of the album's 10 songs feature in their latest outing in Singapore, displacing many older hits, most notably fan favourites The Wild Ones and New Generation.

In fact, for the first time since the Hanover Grand gig, not one song from 1994's brooding magnum opus Dog Man Star is played, despite frontman and lyricist Brett Anderson now recognising it as among the band's best work.

This is an affirmation of the band's current line-up, which is responsible for all but three of the evening's 20 tunes.

It is also a vindication for guitarist Richard Oakes, who for too long has been unfairly seen as a stand-in for Butler, despite having brilliant technical chops of his own.

The gamble pays off.

Some 1,800 fans at The Coliseum respond to the fresh ferocity of Snowblind, the spiralling euphoria of It Starts And Ends With You and the widescreen embrace of Barriers with as much fervour as they do for classics such as Animal Nitrate, Trash and Filmstar.

Anderson, who at 45 is more lean and sprightly than most men his age, is only happy to instigate them. Far removed from the chemical excesses of his heyday, he now relies on sheer athleticism, transforming every song's emotional content into pure physical output.

Throughout the concert, which ran just under 90 minutes, he tirelessly pogos, pirouettes, leaps off stage monitors, swings his microphone like a lasso, drops to his knees and whips his fringe repeatedly, while managing to hit all the high nasal notes.

It is a performance convincing enough to make one forget how gauche it is for a middle-aged man to still be singing paeans to being "so young".

His bandmates support him with low-slung, hip-swaying enthusiasm, dialling things back just enough to let their singer shine.

Before the encore of just one song, Saturday Night, Anderson declares that the band have "very, very good memories" of their first gig in Singapore. He gets the year (1997) and the venue (Harbour Pavilion) correct, to racuous cheers from the old faithful.

Uttered by any other singer, this could be dismissed as fan-baiting drivel.

But Suede have a special relationship with Singapore, having performed here on five other occasions, far more than any of their contemporaries.

And today, they are a band who know as much about looking back as they do about surging forward.

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