There's a song Palais-ing...
18 February 1995
Submitted by: Inge Klinkers
THERE’S A SONG PALAIS-ING…
HAMMERSMITH PALAIS, LONDON
I CLEARLY haven’t been paying attention.
I mean, changes of this magnitude aren't effected overnight and I would have noticed. I would have seen the emergence in the new guitarist of the kind of swaggering confidence that indisputably proves the truism about tiny acorns and mighty Oakes; heard the never-increasing denial in their sets of all nuance, sacrificed necessarily at the altars of spectacle and performance in front of increasingly larger and more hysterical crowds; noted the gradual chubbing out of Brett Anderson's upper arms. The last time I saw Suede, I think we'd just seen off the Ice Age, which might explain why their appearance tonight as A Monster Rock Band knocks me sideways.
“They're the f***in’ business, aren't they!" squeals a chain-smoking tot next to me, when the house lights have only just dimmed and we're craning to the hippy strains of “Introducing The Band”. He's right, of course: Suede are now the business in a whole new way; a way that has a lot to do with consumer expectation and dream-investment and wish-fulfilment and the natural corollary of all this - giving Them what They want.
Not so long ago, Brett Anderson fancied himself (god, how he fancied himself!) as the queen of arts. On tonight's evidence he's more the jack-of-all-trades - no insult intended - more Rambo than Rimbaud. Caught here in the frantic, exhilarating, stormy mesh of rode performance, he's forgotten most of his old, painfully studied moves. And he's good at this dumb rock shit - whipping the mic lead until it's tight around his hips, grinding some good and hard, poking his ass at us (just twice) like he knows it’s a stoopid thing to do, but hey, what the heck, clenching his teeth or grinning like a bastard in the throes of some private nirvana, genuinely (it seems) surrendering to the moment and so all the more likely to take us with him. Put bluntly, it’s like he started borrowing from Bono instead of Bowie.
Suede's Big Rock Songs - the roof-raising "Animal Nitrate" and "We Are The Pigs”, a thunderous "Metal Mickey”, the luscious, shamelessly anthemic "The Wild Ones" and “The Power” (live, both mercifully shorn of those poncey strings) – are easily their best moments. And, in the clap-along “This Hollywood Life”, Little Richard goes ape-crazy while Brett almost topples backwards from the monitors for the umpteenth time, looking like the last thing he wants is to be rescued from this life, ta very much.
These are the times when Suede mainline in to the exuberance and lust and fire that presumably got them into this game in the first place. They show up the chronic embarrassment that is “The 2 Of Us”, where everyone just grows fidgety and the film projected behind looks like an ad for the prevention of teen pregnancies, and the hideously pompous “Still Life”, still more overinflated than your average balloon, despite tonight’s minimal treatment. Reaching for the stars is no good if you’ve got short arms, guys.
Generally, though, Suede have lost the original plot and are all the better for it – they’re way more convincing as a rock band like this than an art statement with tunes. The beefiness becomes them - although Brett should keep an eye on that gut - and could even (gasp) be slowly shedding the skin of their obvious role models.
For Suede, it’s still a challenge, it seems; still a thrill; still life. The overlook's fine.