Sunday, November 03, 2002

THE NO ROCK REVIEW: Rather than relying on Becky Bamboo, for once we're filing our own review: Gemma Hayes and Suede, Liverpool Royal Court, 2-11-02:
There’s no denying that Gemma Hayes is a technically brilliant songwriter - her songs are put together with the sort of care which, should a carpenter bring to making a dovetail joint, would bring tears to the eyes of the hardest expert on Antiques Roadshow. The trouble is that the songs, while well-made, are totally unmemorable. There’s acts of recognition, certainly - “ah, this is the other one that 6Music was so keen on” - but nothing in the songs themselves latches into your memory. Not only is there nothing to take away with you, there’s nothing even to grab hold of while they slide by you. The sort of thing that even at Lillith Fair would get applause as an act of solidarity, rather than a note of gratitude. Spookily, though, we both came to the same conclusion that she’d listened to a lot of Placebo.

Brett Anderson now has a haircut that looks like his mam did it; he was wearing trousers that Kim Wilde might baulk at gardening in; his dance routine was cribbed from Mick Jagger’s ‘Let’s Work’ video, and yet he’s still a little ball of sexual beauty. The set is almost entirely a greatest hits affair, which serves the purpose of showing off that Suede has a back catalogue that is wider and deeper than you remembered as much by what’s left out to make space (Pantomime Horse, The Drowners, all but a verse of the Living Dead) as is included (Metal Mickey, Trash, Beautiful Ones). Live, the new stuff fits wonderfully into the body of work - Positivity is the second song in, and sung like its meant; Obessions is such classic Suede at times it sounds like they’re going to crash into My Heroine. At one point, Brett announces they’re going to do a track from the (severely under-performing) new album and asks the crowd what they want to hear. Like a class who haven’t done their homework, there’s an embarrassed mumbling of “um... the third one...” and “whatever you think is best...” and “ooh, you know, the one with the stuff about... pigs or something...”

But generally, this is a triumphant night, showing that the band is far from the write-off they might have been considered. Sure, at one time the people in hall wearing car coats and jangling carkeys would have been there to chaperone rather than being the actual audience ; and sure, the wider bellies and less luxuriant hair on view don’t stop at the front row, but getting older has broadened Suede’s appeal. It takes a while to work out why Brett’s banter with the audience is more David Brent that you might expect, and then it hits you: because he is actually trying to be entertaining. They’ve turned their back on the aloofness and icy distance of the past; when at the end Brett encourages the audience to applaud ourselves, sure, it’s a cheesey, Vegas moment, but it’s also heartfelt. It’s not just sunshine and life that Suede have come to appreciate; they value the love of the audience for the warmth, and not simply as an ego-boost. When Brett dedicates Beautiful Ones to us, it’s as if Monty Burns has finally planted a big, wet kiss on Smither’s lips and called us Waylon.

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