During the encore of Suede’s opening night at The Olympia, Coming Up’s ‘Trash’ and ‘Beautiful Ones’ elicited a reaction from the crowd that is normally only reserved for the iconic singles taken from their mercurial debut. If Suede was the sound of the band getting the ball rolling on Britpop and Dog Man Star was their attempt to disassociate themselves from that particular mid-’90s movement, then 1996’s Coming Up was the sound of Suede wanting a piece of the action.
Often dismissed as Suede’s ‘pop’ album, it found Suede focusing on their knack for writing glam-influenced pop songs with outward-looking lyrics that commented on high and low society. A 10-track, 40-minute album of pop songs, its fusion of Hunky Dory– era Bowie and The Slider-era T. Rex spawned five top 10 singles and remains their biggest seller. With that in mind, it’s clear that Coming Up is, for the band, more fun to play. It lacks the long, maudlin tracks such as ‘She’s Not Dead’ and ‘Daddy’s Speeding’, from their first and second albums respectively, that slow down the flow and momentum of a gig. The crowd, too, feel more involved in the proceedings; there is more fist-in-the-air jubilation than the chin-stroking introspection of both the Suede and Dog Man Star gigs.
Clearly, keyboard player Neil Codling and guitarist Richard Oakes, both of whom made their recording debuts with Suede on Coming Up, seem more involved in the proceedings and more connected to their own material than that of the first two records. They have a personal connection to these songs that isn’t there when they are playing songs from the earlier albums. The slower songs – ‘By the Sea’, ‘Picnic by the Motorway’, ‘The Chemistry Between Us’ – somehow manage not to kill the momentum generated by the opening half. In fact, ‘Saturday Night’, the slow tempo closer, finds Anderson venturing into the crowd for one last hurrah.
A superb encore ensures that this is the most energised, adrenaline-fuelled night of the three. Consisting of the slow, cold, Bowie/Eno- influenced ‘Europe Is Our Playground’ (B-side to ‘Trash’), the band quickly snap out of the moody atmospherics of that song and rip swiftly into a string of up-tempo glam-rockers: ‘New Generation’, ‘Can’t Get Enough’ (taken from 1999’s Head Music), ‘So Young’, ‘Metal Mickey’ and ‘So Young’. By the end Anderson has reminded the audience of his brilliance as a frontman; his hips shaking and swaying, his voice singing in a clear, confident falsetto and with urgency like never before. For band and audience alike, it feels like the end of a long journey. As the crowd pour out onto Dame Street, rumours of a new album and tour next year are thrown about. If true, Suede have raised the bar up a notch that they will be hard-pressed to surpass.
Photo: Julie Bienvenu