Suede and Nadine Shah, Alexandra Palace, 11th November 2021
Updated: Nov 22, 2021
Brett described Suede as a pram that's been pushed down a hill - it's a twisted, disturbing journey. Tonight's show is a celebration of surviving one of the tougher turns in that journey, celebrating Coming Up, their third album - the one that vindicated them.
Not only had they survived the departure of musical genius Bernard Butler, but in fact thrived and achieved even greater success. And also celebrating 25 years on, they have survived the heartache, bust-ups, drugs, egos and are now making stunning new music and have a rock solid canon of albums they can look back at with huge pride (ok, let's ignore A New Morning...)
But before we get to the main act, there is the fabulous support band - Nadine Shah. Hailing from South Tyneside, her heritage a mix of Pakistani and Norwegian. She's an evocative blend of PJ Harvey, Anna Calvi, Patti Smith, Joan As Police Woman and something uniquely her.
She prowls the stage, clad in black, snarling her way through songs which delve into her heritage, the rise of nationalism, the loss of her mother, and much more. Her performance is intense, but her banter between songs is friendly, relaxed, her Geordie accent piercing the stage persona. Clearly she's ecstatic to be there - she's one of the talking heads on the Suede documentary, The Insatiable Ones. She's a fan and proudly wears her Suede t-shirt under her leather bomber jacket.
Standouts are Ladies For Babies (Goats For Love) and Kitchen Sink - check out my review of the album of the same name here).
Suede soon follow her on stage, heralded by an orchestral version of Coming Up's She. They hit the ground running with Trash, Filmstar and Lazy, as they crack their way through the whole of Coming Up. The band are tight as fuck, playing their poppiest, most fabulous album, backed by the amazing artwork from Peter Saville.
Photo: courtesy of Sarah Johnston
I remember buying the album when it came out, bowled away by its lead single, having expected little from them after Bernard had left. I'd seen Richard Oakes do a superb facsimile of Bernard on stage touring Dog Man Star, but it's one thing to impersonate, it's another to innovate. My friend Simon turns to us during the show and says this show is Brett vindicated and he's right, it is. But really this is Richard Oakes' celebration. The boy wonder saved Suede and deserves the credit.
But Brett is in full on Jagger mode. There is not a rock star move that he does not pull out of his brilliant bag of tricks. Monitors are scaled, the stage leapt, he dives down into the audience embraced by a crowd marvelling at the intimacy so easily dispensed. He crawls the stage, his inner Iggy Pop taking over (stop taking me over?). That he is 54 year old former drug addict is almost impossible to believe - he's fit, beautiful and his voice is still as powerful and impressive as it ever was.
The performance of Coming Up is wonderful, ending with a beautiful Saturday Night, still celebrating the bittersweet night time thrills of his youth.
The second half of the set is a mix of B-sides, hits, album tracks and includes a beautiful acoustic duet of The Wild Ones with Brett and Nadine. There is a killer run of hits that bring the set to a close - Killing Of A Flash Boy, We Are The Pigs, So Young, Metal Mickey, Animal Nitrate...it's hugely impressive stuff. For a band that deals with council estates, detritus and the lost souls of the world, it's a brash, loud, grand show.
Photo: courtesy of Vincent Sorel
My only niggle would be only two songs from their last three albums - their return back in 2013, after a tentative but revelatory 2010 Royal Albert Hall show for Teenage Cancer Trust has been triumphant. Each album has bettered the last. Let's hope for more new songs when they next return.
But that's a small complaint. Coming Up was born from a time the band were written off - and when they are in a corner, they come out fighting. Coming Up is a heavyweight champion, it floats like a butterfly, and stings like a needle and 25 years on, it's still joyous.