The Untouchable Ones
De La Warr Pavilion


De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea - 25th June 2015
They're the last of their kind. Not yet the last of the huge indie bands who had the power to crash through into the mainstream and barge into the top thirty; while the Manics continue to deluge us with their slanted take on rock and roll and while Blur continue to juggle with ideas of exactly what they think they should be, Suede will never be that. What they are, simply, is the last of those bands who truly matter.

Tonight's homecoming gig, a warm-up for Glastonbury, only serves to underline this. From the early hours of Thursday morning black-clad young women are hanging around outside the De La Warr Pavilion, one of the nation's greatest deco treasures. None of them are at an age where they can remember Suede in their pomp; this is a new generation drawn to the flame that once looked to have expired but which now appears to be burning ever more brightly.

Sussex boys in front of a home crowd are never going to be given a hard time, but as Suede open proceedings with 'Animal Nitrate' b-side 'Painted People' you would have thought they had parted the Red Sea rather than taken the first tentative step on a considerable two-hour journey. They settle quickly. Brett Anderson is already on the floor for second track 'Snowblind' and touching hands with the audience during 'Heroine'. He has three large monitors aimed at him, but the Pavilion's sound system is not so sophisticated as to warrant them; they are there simply as climbing apparatus and Anderson never slows down: dancing, jumping, crawling, veering off to right and left, trawling through the photographers' pit, and greeting the applause after each song with both arms raised in salutation.

This is no messianic posture, though. Suede aren't here to lead us to the promised land and that lies at the very heart of their power. Suede are outsiders, feeling as dislocated from the world as do their audience. Outside is only alienation, inside is what makes this different from a million other gigs, empathy.

Eight album tracks and b-sides (some not played for twenty years) are received rapturously, but as the band embark on playing a series of singles, all of them hits, it is difficult to describe the noise and the elation. The audience sing every word to 'So Young' and 'Metal Mickey', from the bouncing youngsters in front of the stage to the static elder statesmen seated at the rear. It's immense, far louder than the band could hope to be and Anderson barely needs to sing. It brings the iciest of shivers to the spine, but the excitement is crowned when the first bars of 'Trash' open up and the universe collapses. Because this is the song that captures the very essence of the band, the song that unites us, and the words we live every day. "We're trash, you and me, we're the litter on the breeze, we're the lovers on the streets." Suede have the power to harvest the hearts of the dispossessed; they are the inheritors of Bowie and Roxy, the early punk scene, Joy Division, Siouxsie and The Cure. Even, bless 'em, The Libertines in their early days. As the band conclude with 'Beautiful Ones' it is close to a religious experience. In it together. To the end.

However did we cope without them? Why was there such an assured agreement that splitting was the correct move after 2002's dreadful A New Morning? There is no doubt the band had lost their fire, drive, enthusiasm and flair at that stage, just as there is no doubt they have found all these again today. In spades.

The musicians are immense. Richard Oakes stands stage left in a black coat looking every inch an indie Michael Ball. You just want to squeeze him, he looks so cute, but also like Ball he performs above and beyond all realms of decency, making his work look as effortless as it is surely brilliant. He barely glances at his instrument as he lays down waves of glorious sound, whether the razor sharp glam riffs of the band's middle period or the more intricate and darker patterns woven initially by Bernard Butler. In contrast Neil Codling, the only band member in white, barely glances up from his guitar or keyboard, a picture of concentration and the least animated of the five. Bassist Mat Osman defies his mantra of standing WAY at the back by strolling to the front as the band find their stride and he throws some glorious shapes in the process. Simon Gilbert drums from a platform, pleasingly not hidden away, while the dazzling Anderson drags your eyes with him wherever he roams, his grey shirt black with sweat from the early moments. After an hour he urges "Let's do this," and do this he does, with immeasurable style.

There's few bands can match the grandeur of Suede when they decelerate to play their slower songs. These seem cavernous and bleed emotion, yet still nothing prepares the audience for the magic of the encore, stolen from DogManStar, as 'The 2 Of Us' drifts into 'The Asphalt World' and 'Still Life'. Perhaps it is easy to overlook the second reason for Suede's enduring power; most of their music is simply stunning: a billion miles from the mainstream yet touching it; alienating yet resonant; lost but embracing.

Maybe it is our nowhere towns and our nothing places that draw us to them. Maybe it is simply the music they play. It's best you don't think about it. This veteran of a thousand gigs has never experienced anything better than tonight. And it's beautiful.

Words Adam Hammond
Apologies for the terrible phone photo, our photographer had the night off. Actually he was at the gig enjoying himself for once!
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