Live: Suede @ Roundhouse
“Let’s have it!” yelled Brett Anderson at the Roundhouse crowd before Suede transitioned into 1996 album Coming Up’s hit single Trash, the North London crowd erupting into a frenzy at the opening bars. But that came well into the evening’s events …
The London-based alternative rockers have been known over the past 25 years as a group who innovate, struggle to find their place, collapse, reform, elevate and have ultimately become a band that will always have a true rock and roll backstory.
And so with their seventh studio album Night Thoughts due to be released in January, they decided to innovate once more, reaching out to NME photographer and filmmaker Roger Sargent to direct an accompanying film which was written by Stephanie de Giorgio. With the record dealing with familial themes including life, death, love, anguish and despair, he went about creating a visual companion to the music, expanding on these themes.
When Suede announced two shows in November at Camden’s Roundhouse venue that would serve as both a premiere for the film as well as front-to-back outings of the as yet unreleased album, it made for an interesting proposition.
The night was split into two acts: Night Thoughts Spectacular, which had the band playing their seventh record in its entirety as a musical accompaniment behind a screen onto which Roger Sargent’s silent film was projected, and Hits and Treats with the clue to the content in the name, the two divided by a short interval.
The first act was a rather sombre affair with frontman Brett Anderson, guitarist Richard Oakes, bass player Mat Osman, drummer Simon Gilbert and keyboardist Neil Codling playing Night Thoughts without introduction or comment shrouded in darkness, accompanying the film, with Anderson and Oakes lit up sporadically and visible through the screen.
The film, while digressing to an upbeat, stylised video in the middle of set, primarily focused on a small family of a man, woman and young boy, with each song accompanying a discreet narrative. Beginning with the man of the family caught in an ocean, the film rewound and charted the course of the couple’s relationship as they dealt with love, loss and ultimate despair.
As an audience member, it was hard to focus on the music because of the dramatic themes depicted on the massive screen across the front of the Roundhouse stage, but it is safe to say that Night Thoughts is a thought-provoking long player and it is meant to be experienced as such.
Following the interval, the band returned to the screen-less stage with frontman Brett Anderson bathed in light kicking off act two with eponymous debut album track Moving before moving into fan favourite B-side Killing Of A Flash Boy, the 48-year-old frontman bounding about the Roundhouse stage, often perching on monitors to leer out at the crowd.
“Let’s have it!” he yelled at the Roundhouse crowd before transitioning into 1996 album Coming Up’s hit single Trash, the North London crowd erupting into a frenzy at the opening bars.
The pace was kept up as the London rockers tore into 1993 hit Animal Nitrate, the flamboyant frontman dropping to his knees frequently and pogo-ing around the stage, enticing the crowd to reciprocate.
The main set continued with Dog Man Star tracks We Are The Pigs, Heroine, The Living Dead and New Generation before the enigmatic Anderson stuffed his microphone into his back pocket, stood on his monitors and motioned the crowd to clap along as the band erupted into debut album track Metal Mickey.
While engaging with the crowd frequently and spending time singing from the barrier and, at one point, from within the crowd, Anderson said very little as the band jumped from song to song. “It’s been lovely” he said before muttering “last one”, the Roundhouse crowd stomping the former railway turntable engine shed floor as Oakes ripped into the opening guitar riff of Coming Up hit Beautiful Ones.
“We’ll do another couple, stay there” Sussex-born Anderson said to his crowd before the band departed only to return moments later for their encore.
“We started with the newest thing we’ve done” the frontman said of their Night Thoughts play-through, “so let’s play the oldest”, introducing the band’s first single The Drowners.
Being tarnished with the “britpop” brush was detrimental to Suede’s goals and had always frustrated Brett Anderson, even though their 1996 album Coming Up was up there with Blur’s Parklife and Oasis’ Morning Glory as the mainstay of many an indie club of the era. Elastica frontwoman Justine Frischmann was even a founding member of Suede. But their latest recorded effort proves that, despite everything, this band were in it for the long haul from the start, driven by producing strong albums rather than charting singles. And their live show is also one to be devoured, with performances of classic hits and brand new material equally engaging.
Night Thoughts is released on January 22nd and is immediately followed up with a European tour before the band head back to UK and Irish shores for shows in Glasgow, Manchester and Dublin in February.
Night Thoughts film was produced by Burning Reel
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Kalpesh has more music photography up on his Flickr stream here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/somethingforkate