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Suede – London Royal Albert Hall – 24 March 2010

The best night of my life.

6 years. 4 months. 11 days. 2 hours. It’s a long time. Many changes in this, but like sunrise and sunset, some things never change. In the cavernous Royal Albert Hall, we are all transported back to a place I never left. It doesn’t matter that some of these songs are twenty years old, or that the band haven’t played a show as such for over six years. What matters is that Richard Oakes, looking as if he has barely aged a day since the last Suede show in 2003, leans over, reels out a guitar riff he’s played 450 times before, and the audience explodes as if the indie Jesus had a cherry red Gibson communing straight to God herself.

Suede changed my life. I met my life partner through Suede and our child is sleeping about four feet from where I am writing this now. Suede changed the way I see the world: and with their music, I was no longer alone. Without these men and these songs I would not know the joy I receive every morning when our son smiles at me and gurgles. Or the joy that comes with the fervent passion and beauty of a well placed guitar riff or lyrical couplet.

Simply put, Suede – and everything and everyone they have brought me over the past twenty years – have made my life a much better place.


And the songs! Each of them sound as if they were the greatest songs ever written in heaven when they hove into view again for the first time in what feels like aeons. Suede songs are still fucking brilliant because some things are eternal and unchanging, and these songs reached exactly into the soul of humanity and the world we live within.

But for a long time now, Suede have been the forgotten sons of the Nineties. Whilst Blur, and their often shallow pretentious-rock aspired to, but failed authenticity, were lauded for the genius they often fell far short – and Oasis’ increasingly useless stodgy Chas’n’Dave plod rock bored the crap out of anyone who aspired for music to be anything more than the soundtrack to a punch-up – Suede, who genuinely, genuinely were possessed by genius and an ability that matched their immense ambition, were dropped as if they were possessed by cloth-eared masses who pretended they never really liked them anyway.

Well, Suede didn’t need you then – and they don’t need you now. What we need is Suede. Because when Simon Gilbert pounds out the fierce introduction to the amped-up bastard love child of Slade and Bowie that is “She”, it’s not about what is cool or uncool. It’s about what we feel, about truth, honesty, and emotion. And nothing is more beautiful than the rare communion between human beings. Tonight, music is the language we all speak. The art they made, songs such as “The 2 Of Us”, were written by 24 year old men unafraid to reach for the stars. And almost all of us were 24 once. And we should never, ever forget the dreams we had as children, for without our history, we have no future.


The quintet that recorded Suede’s most commercially successful record – “Coming Up” – take the stage to a sold out crowd at 9.08pm: Simon Gilbert and Mat Osman sprint to their places looking barely a moment older than the last time they performed in London. Richard Oakes, the man who singlehandedly revived Suede when Bernard Butler departed acrimoniously, takes his place stage right, and Neil Codling – last seen with Suede in Iceland a decade ago – takes behind a massive bank of equipment.

And Suede have never seemed so aflame. The wild gamut of emotions from their latter years, ranging from desperate to joyous, has been replaced by a celebration. Suede were always amazing. They still are. Each song is the same. But different. Better now, with age. Finer.

Honestly. Band reunions are often shit. Inspired by money, ego, and habit – or habits – band reunions, propped up by supporting musicians, reformed bands often are trying to recreate an alchemy or magic that simply can only be imitated, not re-experienced.


Tonight though is different. It’s not part of a cynical, festival-headlining, mortgage-paying exercise. It’s not for ego. The cause is deeply personal; cancer. Tonight’s show – at the Albert Hall – is the last of just three shows with no planned cash cow rape of the wallets in the months ahead. It’s not for that. It’s for the right reasons.

At 42, Brett Anderson is fast approaching the midlife crisis of a life in rock: his solo records are fabulous but weird things, but there’s no sign or flash of anything other than a complete and utter engagement in the moment as he revisits his past. Beside him, Richard Oakes, a genius guitarist whose only crime was to replace Bernard Butler, stares into the high heavens – especially during a spellbinding “He’s Gone” – and effortlessly pulls forth sounds that unlock, deep within my soul, things I wanted to forget but never should. During this song, dedicated by Anderson to an absent friend Jesse who died three weeks previously, I, for one, cannot help but think of those I have lost – parents, children – who I will never see, and who will never see me, grow old or grow up. When Brett breaks into the chorus – “He’s gone, and it feels like the words to a song” – it’s heartbreaking for anyone who ever loved and live music, because in this, he – the narrator – is the same as the rest of us, a fan of the healing power of music that heals us.

We needed this. There’s a room full of tears and joy tonight. They may only be songs – but the Bible is just a book – and these songs changed lives and saved lives and made the world a better place. And the band has never been as passionate: Neil Codling played guitar with a passion and fervour that filled the sound completely in a way that he never did in the Nineties. He effortlessly peels forth the chords to the song that will soundtrack my funeral – “The Next Life” – and the entire room ascends to some other plane of existence beyond standing in Kensington watching some blokes make a racket. Each song is no rote repetition of the previous live incarnation, but has been subtly reworked with extra guitar flourishes and new elements. This is Suede as brilliant, brutal, and bold as they ever were.

Albert Hall

Brett bounced around stage as a man reborn. His solo career may not be selling out big halls or selling lots of records, but I get the feeling that he – as much as anyone – needed this visitation. At the time, I’m not sure anyone enjoyed this as much as they probably should, but tonight, clearly, Brett appreciates exactly what he had then.

And I’ve never seen a moment where the band halt the show for five minutes simply to bask in rabid, fervent standing ovation : the moment, when “Metal Mickey” blossoms into life, orgasms all over our ears, and then vanishes in a flash, was one of the greatest pop thrills of my life. Each member stands and beams at the rapturous response as they remember what this used to be, somewhat stunned by the applause.

It feels as passionate, as vital, and above all, as absolutely necessary as any Suede show ever had – from the first time I saw them in a University Debating Hall when their career was three songs old in 1992 to the last, tearful farewell at the now decimated Astoria eleven years later. The set was chock full, wall to wall of absolute classics that the ‘cool’ barometer of history has tried to erase. But when songs such as “Killing Of A Flashboy”, “The Asphalt World”, or “So Young” are breathing in front of my eyes, fuck being ‘cool’. Let’s be amazing together once more.

If this is one night, the last night, then it was, above all other things, for the right reasons, and done the right way. The danger with reunions is that it could tarnish the memory of the glory years: tonight Suede varnished the memory, and shined brighter than ever. If they we never see or hear from them again, then this was the perfect finale. A fitting and dignified last statement. Proof, if any were needed, than they were – are – of the best live bands I have ever seen. The last words that Brett says, during “Saturday Night” are simple. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful he repeats. And he is right. It was. It is.

And during “The Wild Ones”, I asked my love to marry me. And she said “Yes.”

For more from Mark, please visit The Final Word