Saturday 11 March 2023

Suede / Desperate Journalist - Manchester Albert Hall - 9th March 2023

Suede brought their sold out tour in support of last year's inspirational Autofiction album to Manchester Albert Hall on Thursday night. Mixing most of the album with both some of their biggest hits and some deep b-side cuts from their illustrious past they delighted an enthusiastic and euphoric crowd who hung on Brett Anderson's every word and move. Support came from Desperate Journalist.

Desperate Journalist feel like they've been on the verge of a breakthrough for a number of years now and it's hoped that this support slot with a fanbase that takes music to their heart and holds it close will help to consolidate their position and take them up to the next level. Their seven song set is an impressive taster menu of what they're about - and they're at their best in the live arena as a five-piece where you can see and feel the intensity in these songs, both in the music and Jo's intense focused delivery of lyrics that take us on a journey through a range of emotions that prey on an uncertain mind. 

Highlights of the set are the wonderfully titled Why Are You So Boring and Personality Girlfriend. The response to them grows with each songs, from polite applause at the start of opener Hollow to a huge roar of appreciation at the end of Satellite. With so many great songs missing because of their half hour slot restriction, there's plenty for newcomers drawn in to discover from them.

Suede seem ageless and timeless. Autofiction was a reinvention of sorts, not the post-punk epic that it was painted in some quarters, but a record at least on a level with pretty much everything they've done in their nineties heyday and their sustained reformation. You sense they still burn with the passion to make new music, ensure the celebration of their heritage doesn't turn the new into a footnote and being on stage is where they're most at love with what they do. They feed the energy in the room and then allow it to nourish them back. Brett heads down to the barrier and into the crowd at regular intervals, to be mobbed to a point that sits the right side of reverence without throwing him off his stride. The joy on his face throughout tells you everything you need to know about where Suede stand in 2023, thirty years on from their defining debut album.

They set their stall out from the start, beginning with just Richard on stage with the riff to opening track Turn Off Your Brain And Yell, opening up with a trio of tracks from Autofiction including Personality Disorder and 15 Again. From our position on the balcony we see the front rows lost in these songs from the off and those on the fringes buzzing off it like a chain reaction. The songs have the power and the ability to make connections with those who aren't as familiar with them as the hardcore, testament to the durability, staying power and the ability to still be creating amazingly powerful music three decades in. The subject matter may have changed, but so have the actors and the audience.

The setlist is perfectly designed too. Heavy on the new material but never too far away from a big hit single - a trio of The Drowners, Animal Nitrate and Can't Get Enough follows the opening Autofiction trio - with a few surprising rarities for the real hardcore fans (b-sides To The Birds and a gorgeous piano-only High Rising). The Wild Ones is stripped down to just Brett with an acoustic guitar and a backing choir of two thousand in the chorus. It proves Suede's ability to hold an audience away from the big hits, a sign of longevity and their refusal to simply turn up, play the hits and take the paycheck as many of their contemporaries have done over the years. 

That pattern of newer material grouped together then a clutch of big singles is a really clever one. The quality of Autofiction means that the feverish atmosphere inside this gorgeous venue never drops. Suede could play to a thousand more at the Academy or the Apollo, but this restored church feels like the perfect setting for them and even the sometimes muddy sound is on its best behaviour tonight. She Still Leads Me On feels like a hit single born in the wrong time and place whilst Black Ice possesses all the dramatic transcendent qualities of their finest early period work. Bloodsports' It Starts And Ends With You, a post-reformation high even by their standards, has a glorious pomp and majesty and cyclonic energy to it that, on stage and in the front rows, matches the trio of big big hitters - So Young, Metal Mickey and The Beautiful Ones - that bring the main part of the set to a close.

There's room for just one encore - Brett referencing his love of Manchester, which he did earlier explaining that High Rising had been written in a dark room in the Britannia Hotel, before they burst into a raucous Trash that has Brett down on the barrier again, once his security has managed to retrieve the microphone from the stage. Young or old, the Manchester crowd are up on their feet, bouncing around, transported back to 1996 where this song, and the album it came from, spoke for us all. It, and Suede, still do. 

Suede played Turn Off Your Brain And Yell, Personality Disorder, 15 Again, The Drowners, Animal Nitrate, Can't Get Enough, To The Birds, The Only Way I Can Love You, High Rising, It's Always The Quiet Ones, She Still Leads Me On, Shadow Self, It Starts And Ends With You, The Wild Ones, Black Ice, So Young, Metal Mickey, The Beautiful Ones and Trash.

Suede's official website can be found here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

Desperate Journalist's official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.  


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