All the gigs of my life

All the gigs of my life: Gig 41 – Suede, Sunday, May 9, 1999, Shepherds Bush Empire

This turned out to be my last Suede gig for three years. A good thing then that it was such an incredible one.


“Suede, 9-5-99: Best Suede gig in the universe EVER!”

Suede as a live band were truly on immaculate form in 1999. This was my third time seeing them in just over six weeks, and with each gig they seemed to get more and more astonishing. And never more so than this night at the Shepherds Bush Empire, which began explosively. From my diary:

“Can’t Get Enough”, “Electricity” and “Trash”, the throttling three-song opening left us helpless to the blows of almighty greatness that never let up that whole night.”

I had a seat up on the balcony for this gig. Usually I preferred to be leaping about in the throng, but this time, being upstairs and viewing the excitable masses below was the perfect spot to be.

“The crowd were beyond mad for it. I was glad to be in the safe confines of level one, really – though I have never been rendered so knackered and sweaty by a gig I sat through entirely. But the heaving throng! It was nothing short of moving to see the 500 meaningful, elated arms stretch out, reach out in unison towards Brett as he soared into “ohoahoowaoh, and everything will flow!” And a few songs later, they threatened to bounce right up through the balcony and land on our laps when “Beautiful Ones” tumbled in.”

Normally, my diary entries for Suede gigs alternated between appraisal and appreciation for my two favourite boys in the band, Brett and Neil. But this night, it was all about Brett for me.

“For the second time ever I could see every member, but really, I only looked at Brett. He was so skinny, so exuberantly POP! and rock’n’roll at the same time, he strode about the stage, danced and spun and straddled the speakers and for the first time I thought, as my eyes glued themselves to the mincing twig-shaped genius, here is the metamorphosis moment, when an indie star becomes an outright legend.”

And as with my previous two Suede gigs in the Head Music era, at the Astoria and at Asylum Studios, I was incredibly taken with the new songs.
At the time of this gig, the album was almost a week old, and I already loved it to bits.

“I was head-banging for the fast ones – “Elephant Man” is surely one of the greatest live songs ever – and just slumped down in my seat, feeling my very blood infused with awe, at the slow songs. The moment of the night was “Savoir Faire” – it just took control of your soul, your mind, bloody hell I couldn’t even think, just felt disbelief at how brilliant it sounded, thrill as Brett kept ripping apart his vocal cords with that incessant “SHOUT!””

Quite frankly, this gig had me lost for words.

“There must be better words to describe how brilliant this gig was, I just felt I was witnessing something legendary. God it was exciting, just something a little but higher, strangely a bit purer, despite the cacophony (and it was LOUD!!! probably my loudest gig ever).”

It says a lot that despite the behind the scene troubles the band were hurtling through, the drugs and the disagreements, Suede were still able to be in the form of their life on stage. I left this gig excited at the prospect of seeing them again at V99 in August, but in the end, that didn’t transpire – I was so knackered after the Manics’ set the night before that I couldn’t make it back to Chelmsford for Suede’s day. And so it was that I would have to wait three years until I saw Suede again in 2002. But that’s nothing: after that it would be a fourteen year wait until my next Suede gig in 2016.

But I knew nothing of that in the spring of ’99, and what with these three epic, emotional gigs I’d been to, and a sparkly new album to obsess over, it truly was a golden time to be a Suede fan.

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