Tonight, Suede, in the familiarly ornate yet louche Victoriana surroundings of the Olympia theatre, depart from the script. Noted for their innovative and transgressive visual impact, Suede present a bi-polar evening opening with a full, in sequence rendition of their new album Night Thoughts and its corresponding film. Following a venue-appropriate interval, they unleash an intense retrospective set drawn largely from Suede, Dog Man Star and Coming Up.
For Night Thoughts the band are positioned behind a translucent gauze onto which is projected Roger Sargent’s film and through which spotlights periodically reveal each member. The film is a haunting episodic flashback, its tone by turns wistfully evocative and heart-wrenching; keyed beautifully into the threads and pulses of the music. The songs, whether replete with plangent refrains and swelling diminished motifs – the reprised ‘When You Are/Were Young’, ‘I Don’t Know How To Reach You’, ‘I Can’t Give Her What She Wants’ – or the whip-smart riffs and resonant vocals of ‘Like Kids’ and ‘No Tomorrow’ – are the deepest and most fully developed of Suede’s career. Tonight they’re delivered with a dramatic intensity that draws from the crowd great surges of empathetic energy.
With the visceral drums and phasing of ‘Moving’ the band reappear in the flesh to shake their bits to the hits. They then overwhelm all possible resistance with the searing one-two of ‘Trash’ and ‘Animal Nitrate’. There is a palpable sense of liberation and validation – having carried the audience through the emotional wormhole of Night Thoughts, film and album, they bask in the warm joy of both the depth and appreciation of that piece and their beloved return to the surging thrills of the familiar. Though some of the quieter moments fall prey to crowd’s enormous enthusiasm and stark desire for Brett’s semi-exposed torso – ‘You should see me in the morning, darling’ he responds to one particularly lascivious howl – the band radiate a validated and confident energy throughout. The close, on the shoulder-twisting, hair-flicking riffs of ‘So Young’, ‘Metal Mickey’ and ‘Beautiful Ones’, is received and accompanied with the full-throated euphoric rapture it wholly merits. A hushed encore of Head Music’s ‘Everything Will Flow’ builds into a stirring and appropriate ‘New Generation’ before the house lights rise.
The second set dazzles and slakes the hugely enthusiastic crowd but with the performance of Night Thoughts Suede have evolved. Placing fearless focus on the new work, insisting that the ghost of electricity still howls in the architectural cheekbones of their face, they have become majestic, imperial. They have inhabited and expressed the depth and scope once only suggested and imagined. A band’s reach must exceed its grasp, else what’s a heaven for?