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Stephen Dalton






Submitted by: Inge Klinkers





SUEDE? YESTERDAY'S men, right? They're on the ropes, second album left standing by Blur and Oasis. Six people In a trendy Camden pub reckon they're rubbish, too. Phew! They must be shitting themselves...

Well yes, oddly enough, they do seem worried. For starters, they didn't want NME to review this tour. Apparently our rave album write-up and highly positive cover feature were part of some clandestine "backlash" plot. Erm, right. Earth calling Suede - you're floating in a most peculiar way...

First, though, we have fresh Nude signing Goya Dress. Fronted by golden-voiced Scott Astrid Williamson, this cool-looking trio seem to have progressed beyond their dangerously goth-esque beginnings to arrive at something tougher and more palatable: a churning, pop-driven formula with overtones of PJ Harvey and Kristin Hersh. Sassy in the extreme, they even manage to look unflustered in this humungous great hall.

The Suede backlash clearly hasn't hit Bristol yet, because when ‘Introducing The Band' strikes up its android drone, 2,000 bright young hipsters go totally apeshit.

But wait! This is not the perfumed nosegay of etiolated striplings we once knew as Suede. It's Guns N' Suede! It's Suede Zeppelin! It's Primal Suede! It's a stampeding herd of punk'n'roll rockswine spewing out barely recognisable steroid-pumped cousins of 'We Are The Pigs', ‘Animal Nitrate', 'My Insatiable One'...

And leading the charge is a black-clad, short-haired, muscle-shirted Brett, dementedly bawling tunes he once crooned. Out goes exotic stage-twirling and suggestive mic-spanking, in comes Sumo-style stomping of hobnailed feet. Angry Anderson has arrived, testing his readiness for battle conditions.

So are Suede trying to prove something here about their ‘laddishness' compared to certain other bands? They're certainly in danger of overdoing it, but fortunately 'The Wild Ones' billows into life like calm sunrise after a storm-lashed night. Suddenly, Brett is no longer Piggy Stardust, reclaiming the high ground with a windswept romanticism which remains light years ahead of his peers. This is the national anthem of lost souls and it still sounds f—ing fantastic...

And so they feverishly continue, ending with cinematic credits and a mighty orchestral version of 'Still Life'. There is no encore - this ain't rock'n'roll, this is rock theatre on a monumental scale. Epic and slightly barmy, but bold and hugely moving.

So yes. Suede are on the ropes - just like Ali was when he took the heavyweight title back from Foreman. They've been forced into a defensive stance, making themselves far more interesting than the universally adored rock aristocrats they once were. And consider this: bar the odd duff night, every single Suede gig since 1992 has burned with this same blazing intensity, this savage sense of occasion. And Blur took three years to get it right...

Not that we want to spoil Suede with unadulterated praise, of course. Simon's drums tonight are far too loud, Brett's vocals too muddy, and Richard Oakes is still some way behind Bernard Butler in the dazzling fluidity stakes. Plus, there's no ‘Sleeping Pills' or 'The Drowners' - bastards!

But these are minor gripes. More importantly, they should stop fretting about nitpicky press and jealous rivals, drop the prima donna petulance and behave with the dignity befitting Britain's greatest living rock band. Because, love them or slag them off to your crap indie drinking mates, Suede are clearly here for the full 15 rounds.

Stephen Dalton

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