2022 Gig Reports

Suede at the Electric Ballroom, Thursday, 6th of October 2022

I have been accused, at times, of only writing positive reviews in this blog. Now it’s time to rectify that. Welcome, then, to the tale of the worst Suede gig I’ve ever been to.

So, what the hell went wrong here? How could the band I considered to be the best live guitar-based act in existence just a few years ago deliver such a sub-par gig? It didn’t help that I had completely failed to connect to their new album. From its title ‘Autofiction’, seemingly meant to evoke auto-erotic asphyxiation, to the cover image glamourising some waif-like youth in a state of existential despair, and lyrics like ‘will you be my personality disorder?’, it all gave me a distasteful sense of forced edginess – something I could forgive in a gang of 20-somethings, but for the members of Suede all surfing their 40s and 50s, you have to ask what the fuck they are doing. Of course, none of this would matter if the tunes were good, and I will admit to only having given the album a couple of listens by the time I went to this gig – but a couple of listens had been enough to convince me of the brilliance of “The Blue Hour” in 2018. This time, I was left with a sense of an unpleasant mess, of a band striving to recapture their youthful swagger and failing completely.

Still, bands are allowed to have one bad album from time to time, and it’s not like Suede don’t have a back catalogue full of enough gems to make a gig worth going to even in their dodgiest era. I was looking forward to seeing them, despite still feeling wearied by the stress of my new job, my family dramas and just for fun, I was at the start of coming down with some weird fatiguing lurgy. I had seen the reports of the previous night’s gig at the same venue that they’d played “Autofiction” in full before getting into the proper tunes, so I held out hope that they’d mix up the setlist for this second show, knowing as they do that many fans would have attended both nights.

Alas, this was not to be. Once at the Electric Ballroom I found myself a spot towards the back of the downstairs throng, and as the band took the stage and commenced the album run-through, I did my best to appreciate the new songs. However, three songs in to the gig, as the band were lurching through the drudging “15 Again”, I realised I couldn’t be arsed standing about in the crowd, listening to Suede sounding like some other band pretending to be Suede. So I headed upstairs and sat on one of the comfy sofas at the side of the balcony for a bit, trying to ignore the inner screaming of my 22-year-old self, who was aghast that I could be at a Suede gig and yet completely ignore the band.

Towards the end of the album set I roamed back downstairs and found myself a spot to lean on near the bar at the back, thinking I’d see out the rest of the gig from this safe distance away. I wondered if I was still a Suede fan, and just how my enthusiasm for this band and my connection to their music could have waned so completely…

You will not be surprised to learn that I didn’t bother taking many photos at this gig. So here’s the Electric Ballroom with some weird reflection effect going on.

… and then, the trashy sleazy chords of “This Hollywood Life” rolled into hearing, and in two microseconds I was back in the thick of the crowd, hollering “she-rocker! wasting your time!” So happily, it turns out that the REAL Suede still own a part of my rock’n’roll soul. It was still a bit of an up and down gig – “We Are The Pigs” was as deviantly glorious as ever, and “Can’t Get Enough” was sheer bonkers ’99-flavoured thrills. The opening chords of “To The Birds” made me scream so loud in shock and joy that people turned to look at me in alarm, and then “Life Is Golden” had me blinking back tears, as it sailed just a little close to the bone of the difficult family situation I was navigating at the time.

I was bouncing like a lunatic to “Metal Mickey”, but found myself a little bored again by “So Young” and “Animal Nitrate”. So I weaved my way out of the crowd during the ending “The Beautiful Ones” and zipped out of the building the moment the “la la la”s were done.

Back in 2018, I considered Suede to be the best live band around, at least as far as guitar based music was concerned – better even than the Manics, who despite being my favourite band in the world, were feeling a little bloated and predictable in the live setting. I can say with certainty that my opinion is now reversed – my most recent Manics gigs at the end of 2021 were electrifying returns to form , whereas Suede now seemed the tired and drudging band, their classics over-saturated and the new songs a mere parody of what they are capable of.

Which is not to say that I am abandoning my Suede fandom – they are still one of my favourite bands of all time, and I’ve been listening to several of their older songs on repeat in recent months, guiding me like old friends through a life full of chaos and turmoil. We all have a least favourite album by the bands we love, and for Suede, it just happens to be their most recent one, for me. I’ll be there in a flash for their next era – and who knows, I may even give the “Autofiction” era one last shot. In fact, I’d probably already have bought tickets for their December gigs at the Brixton Academy if it weren’t for the uncertain future of that venue making me hold back. If they do go ahead, chances are, I will be there.

(Though if they do a complete “Autofiction” run-through again, you’ll find me at the bar until it’s over.)

Categories: 2022 Gig Reports, GIG REVIEWS

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