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I'll Forget You Butler

James Oldham

12 October 1996





Submitted by: Jane Marshall


Glasgow Barrowlands

IT WAS like this in the more glamorous medieval torture chambers. There is darkness and screaming. A light appears, and we are illuminated. Or rather, we are consumed by scarlet fog and a slight sense of confusion. The screaming stops, and there's silence for a few seconds. Then comes noise:

dramatic strings, deathening orchestration and distant drums. Now drums, distant or not, prompt screams at the best of times. Although perhaps not always screams this loud, Your senses now find themselves in something of a state, and your stomach is under the mistaken impression that you're about to embark on a date with the prettiest girl in your class. That's an extreme exciting feeling. It is also the cue for four, immaculately skinny gentlemen to stroll onstage.

They don't amble, but they're not in any hurry. They put out their cigarettes, arrange their hair and stoop over their instruments. All of them bar one, wear black. They stop a moment to survey the scene, and decide, yes, now would be an excellent time to begin. They begin to play 'She' from their latest album.

The picture, however, is not yet complete. There is one last detail to be added. We all know what it is, we're just not quite sure when it's going to arrive. Thirty Seconds pass, and here it is. A gauche, young hip swiveller strides centre-stage. He flicks his fringe, he tries a preparatory wiggle, he is ready.

Pandemonium. Brett Anderson snaps into kinetic action. He jumps, jerks and points: he shakes, darts and waves. To his left and right, the skinny, black-clad gentlemen are hunched over their instruments. The guitarist, Richard Oakes, is on his knees, attacking his instrument. The keyboard player, Nell Codling, sits impassive but tense. The song seems to be about injecting

marijuana, not that it matters. It builds and it flows, and eventually it ends in a squall of piercing, unexpected feedback. Surely this is how all gigs should, indeed must, begin?

And to think we thought they were finished. To think we attached so much importance to Bernard Butler, How wrong we were. Suede, for the first time in their lives, are now a proper rock band. We know they've been through stuff. We know about the instant adulation, the madness and the disintegration, the drugs and the expanding waistline, and of course - the alleged rebirth, but perhaps we didn't believe it. We needed to see it with our own eyes, we needed to see how they looked, how they carried themselves.

And we never believed it would be this good. They're a gang. They've distanced themselves from the pack. They don't look like labourers who struck lucky. They look like The Velvet Underground, they look like the only stars worth caring about. That first song was so magnificent, so Wagnerian, so thrilling, it immediately feels as though there's nothing Suede can't accomplish. Nothing here suggests chance. There's no need to give them the benefit of the doubt.

because they've never sounded this imposing or exuberant. As comebacks go, we could mark this one down as a success.

Just listen to the songs they choose to play. The past is barely dealt with. Unlike The Boo Radleys at their recent London show, this is not a band apologising for their present, because they don't even

entertain the thought that their new material is inferior. Because it isn't. They follow 'She' with 'Trash'. Brett swings his microphone furiously above his head, the momentum is maintained. Richard once again stabs relentlessly at his guitar, in the process creating an almighty, feedback-driven racket. He wrote these songs and he knows how they should sound. That's so important, and it shows.

But even when Suede deign to play their former colleague's music, they amplify and invigorate it to such an extent that they obliterate any thoughts of nostalgia. The enormous sheets of metallic guitar that herald the start of 'Animal Nitrate' and the abusive, six-string assault on 'Heroine' serve simply as a message: We don't mind playing these songs - after all, these days we play them better.

Inevitably, though, this pace can't be maintained. They need to take a few moments to compose themselves. Don't worry, they'll play a slower one - 'By The Sea maybe. Yes, that's an idea, that'll give Neil a chance to be heard. Richard can spend the whole song coaxing a single note of plaintive distortion from his guitar, Brett can rest for a moment. He can hug his mike stand, he can bow and then he can deliver a tale of inconsolable romance.

It's the homestretch now. A ragged and wired 'Starcrazy' precedes a paranoid, edgy 'Together, before finally the band depart, pursued by the glitzy strains of the new single, 'Beautiful Ones'. And by rights that should be the end. The mist has dispersed, the red lights have dimmed and once again there is silence, a brief moment of amazement, before the shouting is renewed. It's louder than before, and twice as imploring. The band can't resist. They return, they blast away a howling 'Filmstar', before disappearing for good. The darkness and screaming commence once more. This time they don't relent.

James Oldham

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