SUEDE + DESPERATE JOURNALIST – BRIGHTON DOME 20.3.23
I have no idea how this ever happened, but tonight I’m actually breaking my duck regarding famous alt rockers Suede having never actually witnessed them live before! Yes I know, shame on me! You would have thought that I would have made the effort by now, especially as 55 years old enigmatic frontman Brett Anderson is a local Sussex boy having grown up in and around Haywards Heath, and been born in Lindfield.
This evening at the Brighton Dome, Brett even makes reference to Haywards Heath, when informing us that he had made many train journeys down to Brighton to watch gigs here in the same venue. This got me wondering what gigs a young Brett would have attended here and whether I too would have been at the same performance, I concluded to myself that there was a very strong possibility of this, based on his musical preferences when forming the band back in 1989 with soon to be partner Justine Frischmann whom he had met the previous year whilst studying at University College London. I wouldn’t mind betting that as a 14 year old, Brett attended The Cure’s first performance here back on 1st December 1981 and then again on 21st April 1982, as well as seeing The Smiths here when he was 18 on 7th March 1985. I suspect that if he (and myself) had been old enough that his choice concerts would have been when he was just five and a half (and younger) when a certain Roxy Music played here on 11th April 1973, and David Bowie was here a half dozen times from 1969 to 1973.
Brett also formed Suede with his childhood friend Mat Osman (whose brother is TV presenter Richard Osman), and they along with Justine decided to place an advert for a guitarist in the 28th October 1989 issue of NME which read “Young guitar player needed by London based band. Smiths, Commotions, Bowie, Pet Shop Boys. No Musos. Some things are more important than ability. Call Brett.” The advert attracted the interest of nineteen-year-old Bernard Butler, who soon auditioned to join the band and they settled on the name ‘Suede’. At that stage they were using a drum machine instead of a live drummer.
Their debut self-titled album dropped on 29th March 1993 and take-up was immediate and it reached No.1 in the UK Album Charts and the outfit won the Mercury Prize of ‘Album of the Year’. Even years later in 2006 the NME placed it at number thirty in ‘The 100 Greatest British Albums Ever’. The album saw no less than four singles released from it, which are amongst their finest work, those being ‘The Drowners’ (out 11th May 1992 and peaked at No.49), ‘Metal Mickey’ (14th September 1992, No.17), ‘Animal Nitrate’ (22nd February 1993, No.7) and ‘So Young’ (17th May 1993, No.22).
Their second album ‘Dog Man Star’ arrived the following year in 1994 and climbed to No.3 and spawned a trio of singles ‘We Are The Pigs’ (No.18), ‘The Wild Ones’ (also No.18) and first single to feature Richard Oakes after the departure of Bernard Butler ‘New Generation’ (No.21).
Their next two albums ‘Coming Up’ (1996) and ‘Head Music’ (1999) both hit the No.1 slot, but 2002’s ‘A New Morning’ stalled at No.24 and on 28th October 2003 Brett decided to call it a day for the band. However, the band got it back together and played at the Royal Albert Hall in London as part of the 2010 ‘Teenage Cancer Trust’ shows on 24th March 2010, which at the time Brett described the comeback show as his favourite gig and the pinnacle of his 20-year career. Clearly there was unfinished business and so ‘The Best of Suede’ two-disc compilation was put together by Brett and released 1st November 2010. It consisted of 18 of the band’s 20 singles on disc one; and a mixture of album tracks and popular B-sides on disc two. The fire had been set alight again!
Thus far, another four albums have been released by Suede and all of them hitting the Top 10, namely ‘Bloodsports’ No.10 in 2013, ‘Night Thoughts’ No.6 in 2016, ‘The Blue Hour’ No.5 in 2018, and latest release, 2022’s ‘Autofiction’ album which climbed as high as No.2, thus becoming Suede’s highest charting LP since 1999’s ‘Head Music’, this new album was released to widespread critical acclaim and excitement. Clearly Suede were back big time!
In a move that recalled their most formative years, the creative process surrounding ‘Autofiction’ saw Suede becoming like a new band again – lugging their own gear to a Kings Cross rehearsal space, collecting a key, setting up, and starting to play. Later recording live at Konk studios in North London, Suede teamed with long-time collaborator Ed Buller. Ed has worked with the band since their inception and produced their debut self-titled album, which sees its 30th anniversary this year.
“Autofiction has a natural freshness, it’s where we want to be,” Brett says. And where Suede want to be is, in a way, the same place as they were when they began 30 years ago – a group of people living off the raw sensation of creating music together in a room. The spark was back!
‘Autofiction’, which you can obtain HERE, has been heralded as “their best album in decades” by Uncut, “superb” by The Times, a “punchy, passionate comeback” in the Observer, “flamboyantly alive” by the Financial Times, “vital” by DIY Magazine, “essential and immediate” by AnOther Magazine, and “an album of the year and an album to treasure for life” by Louder Than War. MOJO praised “punk ferocity”, Record Collector championed “revitalisation” whilst the NME confirmed Suede, “icons reborn”.
As 2022 drew to a close ‘Autofiction’ was praised anew, ranking as an essential album of the year in critics and fan lists alike. The Guardian applauded “guts, rage and euphoria” in their Top 50 Albums of 2022, The Times found “high drama and grainy art-rock” in their Best of 2022, MOJO “an urgent, heroic and gothically-attuned take on guitar rock” with ‘Autofiction’ at No.6 in their Top 75 Albums of 2022 list. High praise from The Sun, The Financial Times, Daily Mail, Evening Standard, Daily Record, Yorkshire Post, Morning Star, Record Collector, the Quietus, Louder Than War, Classic Pop, Uncut and more all followed, including the album in their coveted Best of Year lists.
It wasn’t an option, with so much rekindled and new found love, Suede simply had to go back out on tour and that tour is happening right now! It has been billed as a performance of classics, hits, and tracks from ‘Autofiction’. The tour was met with huge demand with every date selling out! Suede were back!
Tonight’s 88 minute 20 song gig at our Brighton Dome Concert Hall is a sell out although there are a few unoccupied seats here and there, no doubt either Covid or the flu that’s doing the rounds. The lights go down and there’s a huge roar and the players take to the stage at 9:01pm with obviously Brett bringing up the rear. First impressions were that he is taller than I imagined and that he certainly doesn’t look or act his age as he bounds around the stage with his endless energy.
The album cover of ‘Autofiction’ is emblazoned on top of the rear curtain behind the band, in fact it’s up there twice and remains throughout the performance. Unlike my last ‘big gig’ a few days earlier in the company of Norman Cook, there are no lazers, mega flashing lights or video films here this evening, it’s just the lads and their music. But to be perfectly honest, I was having real difficulty averting my eyes away from him and onto Mat Osman (on bass), Simon Gilbert (on drums), Richard Oakes (guitar), and nearest myself Neil Codling (on keyboard and guitar). I was struggling to see what they were doing as my brain had been totally locked into ‘Mr Performer’ out front.
The man’s energy knew no bounds and his shirt very quickly became soaked with sweat as did his brow. He clearly had to have his limits marked out for him and thus the three stage front speakers which had flat tops had clearly marked white tape around the edges as to where Brett’s feet should not stray over. Likewise the two smaller units had white crosses in tape on those and so were clearly no go areas. There was one solitary giant shoe box looking structure on the floor in the middle of the stage as well, which I was convinced that Brett would trip over, but he never did, instead he regularly launched himself into the air from it in order to gain more height, great trick!
This Suede are a well oiled machine and as Brett get’s up to his antics, the other guys professionally hold the fort. By Brett’s antics I am of course if you were there know what that is a reference to, but if not, then as early as the fourth number ‘The Drowners’ from their debut long-player – which had followed on from ‘Turn Off Your Brain And Yell’, ‘Personality Disorder’ and ‘15 Again’ all found on ‘Autofiction’ – Brett had gone off on walkabout into the crowd and sang among them. There were so many open mouth’s in disbelief and joy and others that were wanting (and actually doing) to hug him and maybe sneak a kiss.
That wasn’t the only amazing thing, as if I was a betting man, I would have chanced a sly bet that Suede would end tonight’s set with a trio of songs that would include the Bowie-esque ‘Animal Nitrate’ (from 1993 ‘Suede’ album), ‘Trash’ (from 1996 ‘Coming Up’ album) and the ‘Do It Clean’ (Echo & The Bunnymen) sounding ‘We Are The Pigs’ (from 1994 ‘Dog Man Star’ album), but blow me down they were all next up! Blimey! The confidence of the band to play them all so early!
Brett’s energy and delivery continues as he crouches down and leans over when singing and to get closer to his fans, which he yet again does with a walkout or two or three! The fans are having the times of their lives. I’m wondering if ALL of the Suede shows have been like one or is this just a tiny bit special as arguably considered as a homecoming performance.
‘Black Ice’ from ‘Autofiction’ and 1999’s ‘He’s Gone’ (from ‘Head Music’ album) are up next and gave the fans a real buzz and then things immediately got stripped right back with just Brett on vocals and the cool looking dude Neil on keys for the most obscure tune of the night ‘The Living Dead’ from 1994’s ‘Stay Together’ single.
Three more from ‘Autofiction’ get an airing next in the form of ‘The Only Way I Can Love You’, the rather excellent ‘She Still Leads Me On’ and the Cockney vocal styled ‘Shadow Self’ and after which we had the Sex Pistols sounding ‘Can’t Get Enough’ (from 1999 ‘Head Music’ album), both of which were certainly highlights of the set for me.
It’s here for me that the set was at its highest most exciting point, so what do they go and do? Go totally in the opposite direction and leave just Brett on stage with a guitar and stool for the solo ‘The Wild Ones’ from 1994’s ‘Dog Man Star’ album. Initially I was a tad upset as I wanted things to keep on ramping up, however, it’s on this number that you can really hear how great Brett’s voice is and how magnetic he is. I would think that many fans here this evening are also fans of Placebo.
2016’s ‘Outsiders’ (from ‘Night Thoughts’) and 1993’s ‘So Young’ (from the debut self-titled album) were next on the list and these were followed by quite possibly the best tune of the night for me in ‘Metal Mickey’ also from the 1993 ‘Suede’ album.
The penultimate number was ‘New Generation’ off the ‘Dog Man Star’ album from 1994, after which they left the stage, only to return to see us out with ‘Beautiful Ones’ (from 1996 ‘Coming Up’ album) and of course this was an excuse for Brett to have a final wander!
This had been a bloody good first live encounter with Suede and my learned DJ friends that were sitting next to us were also ‘Spellbound’ by the whole experience!
Brett Anderson – vocals, tambourine (1989–2003, 2010–present)
Mat Osman – bass (1989–2003, 2010–present)
Simon Gilbert – drums (1991–2003, 2010–present)
Richard Oakes – guitars (1994–2003, 2010–present), backing vocals (2002-2003)
Neil Codling – keyboards, synthesizers, piano, guitars, backing vocals (1995–2001, 2010–present)
‘Turn Off Your Brain And Yell’ (from 2022 ‘Autofiction’ album)
‘Personality Disorder’ (from 2022 ‘Autofiction’ album)
‘15 Again’ (from 2022 ‘Autofiction’ album)
‘The Drowners’ (from 1993 ‘Suede’ album)
‘Animal Nitrate’ (from 1993 ‘Suede’ album)
‘Trash’ (from 1996 ‘Coming Up’ album)
‘We Are The Pigs’ (from 1994 ‘Dog Man Star’ album)
‘Black Ice’ (from 2022 ‘Autofiction’ album)
‘He’s Gone’ (from 1999 ‘Head Music’ album)
‘The Living Dead’ (Neil and Brett only) (from 1994 ‘Stay Together’ single)
‘The Only Way I Can Love You’ (from 2022 ‘Autofiction’ album)
‘She Still Leads Me On’ (from 2022 ‘Autofiction’ album)
‘Shadow Self’ (from 2022 ‘Autofiction’ album)
‘Can’t Get Enough’ (from 1999 ‘Head Music’ album)
‘The Wild Ones’ (Brett solo acoustic) (from 1994 ‘Dog Man Star’ album)
‘Outsiders’ (from 2016 ‘Night Thoughts’ album)
‘So Young’ (from 1993 ‘Suede’ album)
‘Metal Mickey’ (from 1993 ‘Suede’ album)
‘New Generation’ (from 1994 ‘Dog Man Star’ album)
‘Beautiful Ones’ (from 1996 ‘Coming Up’ album)
The support act this evening were London based quartet Desperate Journalist who despite having formed over a decade ago, back in 2012, tonight was our first encounter with this post-punk outfit.
The interesting story behind the band’s names is that it was apparently taken from the title of one of the songs performed by The Cure as part of their second of six John Peel Sessions, when their track ‘Grinding Halt’ was reworked for the show by Robert Smith (guitar, vocals), Simon Gallop (bass, vocals) and Lol Tolhurst (drums, backing vocals) at the BBC’s Maida Vale 4 Studio on 9th May 1979 and was first broadcast a week later on 16th May. The song being retitled ‘Desperate Journalist In Ongoing Meaningful Review Situation’ with new lyrics for ‘Grinding Halt’ as a result of an unfavourable review of The Cure’s debut album ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ in the NME by Paul Morley.
Desperate Journalist (the band not Paul Morley) have thus far released just four albums ‘Desperate Journalist’ (2014), ‘Grow Up’ (2017), ‘In Search Of The Miraculous’ (2019) and ‘Maximum Sorrow!’ (2021), as well as a host of singles and EP’s. You can find their work on their Bandcamp page HERE.
As far as we can tell, the band have played live in Brighton at least twice before, once at The Prince Albert on 8th July 2017, and the other one of these being at The Wedding Present’s annual ‘At The Edge Of The Sea’ August bash at the Concorde 2 back in 2018. Incidentally this year’s event will be held on 11th and 12th August – Details HERE.
Desperate Journalist this evening consists of Jo Bevan (vocals), Simon Drowner (bass guitar), Rob Hardy (guitar), Caroline Helbert (drums) and second guitarist for live work Charley Stone. They take to the Brighton Dome stage bang on their allotted time of 7:55pm and perform seven selected compositions that run until 8:26pm. The venue is half full at the start of their set, but many stragglers make their way in from the bars in order to watch the band.
Literally within seconds of their opening number, the 2016 single ‘Hollow’, I note their love of The Cure as well as a very strong resemblance to Reykjavík’s finest band The Sugarcubes, especially on the vocal side, with Jo’s quirky delivery akin to Björk Guðmundsdóttir which is enjoyable and captivating. I already get the sense that although new to me, they are clearly not a new band and are in fact a tight outfit.
Throughout their 31 minute set, Jo holds the audience’s attention as she delivers the lyrics often in an animated way, for instance by running her hands through the back of her hair for effect. In between tunes she ensures that her throat isn’t dry and has a swig of an unknown drink followed by a swig of water, thus the quality of delivery does not dip during the set.
After the initial Cure/Sugarcubes experience of the opening number, they perform the rockier ‘Why Are You So Boring?’ 2017 single, which is followed by ‘Fault’ which is on their latest platter ‘Maximum Sorrow!’ and although still very much in The Sugarcubes territory, this did remind me of the beats from the very first Killing Joke ‘Nervous System’ release.
Drummer Caroline was leading the beat on the next tune, ‘Personality Girlfriend’, after which we had a second 2017 single in the form of ‘Be Kind’ which was another rocky number, but this time like a heavier version of The Smiths. It had a false ending and caught the crowd out and this was judging by the applause, the punters favourite song of their set.
The penultimate number we were told by Jo was “about trees”, its title ‘Cedars’, which I personally found the least enjoyable of their set, it just seemed a little plain, whereas the finale of ‘Satellite’ contained some rather excellent guitar work that Robert Fripp would have certainly approved of.
Desperate Journalist were a decent selection for supporting artists and certainly warmed the increasing size crowd up for the main event.
Jo Bevan – vocals
Simon Drowner – bass guitar/backing vocals
Rob Hardy – guitar/backing vocals
Caroline Helbert – drums/backing vocals
Charley Stone – guitar
Desperate Journalist setlist:
‘Hollow’ (2016 single)
‘Why Are You So Boring?’ (2017 single)
‘Fault’ (from 2021 ‘Maximum Sorrow!’ album)
‘Personality Girlfriend’ (from 2021 ‘Maximum Sorrow!’ album)
‘Be Kind’ (2017 single)
‘Cedars’ (from 2019 ‘In Search Of The Miraculous’ album)
‘Satellite’ (from 2019 ‘In Search Of The Miraculous’ album)
Leave a Reply