Suede's latest album 'A New Morning' was released last month to rampant critical indifference. Tonight lead singer Brett Anderson seems to have taken the sentiments expressed on the first single from the new album, 'Positivity', as a guide on how to combat accusations that the band are slipping lazily into a middle-aged creative cul-de-sac. After a strangely low-key opening song, old b-side 'Europe Is Our Playground', they burst into 'Positivity' with a relish bordering on desperation.
Criticising a band for their appearance is heading in a disturbing Pop Idol direction, but the way guitarist Richard Oakes has expanded into James Dean Bradfield proportions deserves at least a passing mention. Even more startling is that Anderson's desire to replicate Bowie has now developed into parody. His jeans were so tight that even someone of his waif-like stature would need to be cut free of them. This coupled with his rabid hip swirling and pelvic thrusting made him look less of a rock god and more like Alan Partridge when he is attempting to lap dance his way to a second series.
The relative success of the gig was dependent on how far Suede delved into their back catalogue. 'Trash', the fourth track in the set, saw the crowd respond to Anderson's urging and the dangerously addictive pop hook of the song. When that gave way to 'Metal Mickey' it was like watching a different band on stage, a reminder that Suede were once raw, edgy and magnificent. The energy in the room was carried into 'Filmstar', a song that can sound contrived on record was provoked into a strutting, confrontational and raucous celebration of the arrogance that Suede never used to have to try to justify.
The new album is by no means a bad record but the failure of the band to play standout track 'One Hit to the Body' meant that most of the new songs sounded distinctly moderate when compared to past efforts. 'Lost in TV' is a notable exception, offering proof that Suede still excel at writing ballads that can tug at your heart despite lyrically making little sense. This was further evidenced during the encore when Anderson performed a solo acoustic version of 'Indian Strings', which divorced from the lush strings on the recording served to emphasise the exceptional strength of his voice.
We were treated to three tracks in total from Suede's eponymous debut album. The crowd justifiably began some serious leaping and air punching as soon as drummer Simon Gilbert started the opening drumbeat of the majestic 'So Young'. As the song reached its dizzying climax it was replaced by 'Animal Nitrate' which astonishingly sounded as fresh as when it was released a decade ago. Oakes masterfully played the suffocatingly superb opening riff to the song, with guitar support provided by new boy Alex Lee. Lee looks uncannily like predecessor Neil Codling, but he needs to do some serious work on the vacant stare into the audience that Codling had made a trademark.
These songs provided a timely reminder of why Suede were one of the defining bands of a mid 90's music scene dominated by indie rock tunes. Whether Suede can reclaim such an esteemed position in a new decade is debatable, as each new album provides fewer songs that can withstand comparison to what has gone before.