Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom 



1 October 1996

Standing in the cavernous hall of Glasgow's Barrowland ballroom waiting for Suede to appear, I happened to glance to my right, realizing with increasing horror that I was standing next to screech & sniff queen Manda Rin, keyboard player and shouter with Bis. I know the next time I hear her sweet warbling on the radio I will regret not taking more concrete action, but at the time I contented myself with loud - and rather witty, I thought - comments along the lines of "Bis are rubbish". Suitably wounded by my scathing words, she pretended - very convincingly - not to notice and sauntered off to the bar. Perhaps their next single will be called "Grumpy Old Bloke At Barrowlands Vampire DIY Teen Kandy Manifesto". Then again, perhaps not.

But I digress. An expectant and excited crowd cheered as the orchestral backing to "She" from new LP "Coming Up" swooned and swaggered out of the PA. Then Brett and his band of black-clad lounge lizards (marks off guitarist Richard Oakes - he made the punishable mistake of wearing a white shirt) sloped languorously onto the stage, Anderson taking position last and to the biggest reception. Adding their cranked-up live sound to the backing tape, Suede played a marvelous and epic "She", Brett side-on and clapping; lean, camp and as charismatic as Bowie at his height. Next came "Trash", all glitter and fake diamonds: a wonderful call-to-arms that at once united and delighted the crowd. Oakes, head bowed and fringe swinging, provided superb backing, his guitar picking out gilt-edged tunes that you could almost see, laser-like, making patterns in the air above him. Anderson set himself up at the front of the stage, left foot on the monitor, and began bouncing up and down like some hollow-cheeked gonk, hair flapping in time with the music.

Brett's loss of weight must be noted: gone is the puppy-fat rounded face; replaced now with this year's slimmer model - all teeth and cheekbones. Judging by the number of times he hoisted his trousers up over his hips too, it looks as though he is still on that weight-loss regime. Or perhaps just being too much of a pop star to waste his glamorous lifestyle eating. Slimmed-down and snake-hipped therefore, Anderson made an impressive front-man, energetically claiming the stage as his own space whilst still acknowledging the rest of his band. A sweeping "Heroine" from "Dog Man Star" followed, giving new recruit keyboard-player and backing vocalist Neil Codling nothing to do except sit back on his stool, regarding the audience with doe eyes and cool, leather-jacketed indifference, all the time shifting position slowly like a panther moving through treacle. Most of the girls in the audience - and a sizable proportion of the boys - followed his every move eagerly: he is a Star - the perfect Suede member. Indeed, when oldie "Animal Nitrate" kicked in with its sharp guitar stabs and vocal yelps, Codling prowled off the stage, walking across the center and turning once to regard the audience with an ice-blue "I'm cooler than you'll ever be" gaze. Hilarious, yet superbly timed and effective without being too affected.

A couple of slowies followed, allowing Anderson's voice to demonstrate its rich and controlled qualities; always hitting the high and the long notes, effortlessly evoking the faded glam vignettes of songs like "The Sea" and "Saturday Night". Then he was back and bouncing with poppier numbers such as "New Generation" and "Lazy", the band rocking out alongside him with Codling having deigned to return to add his keyboard and backing vocals to the material, both new and old. Again the mike swung in a large arc around Anderson's head - too large, as it happened, crashing into the drum kit. This, together with one false start and a touch of feedback howl, were the only signs of clumsiness; and they were all shrugged off with a good-natured cool shrug and a grin. He may have the reputation of being a bit of a prima Donna and a tyrant, but Brett Anderson appeared to be enjoying Suede's comeback as much as the audience, forgiving Oakes' feedback by revealing it was the young guitarist's birthday (cue garbled "Happy Birthday" from the audience) and laughing as his microphone smacked into the bass drum. Keeping between-song banter to a minimum (a yelped "thank yow!" after each number), he nevertheless won the audience over with his style, glam camp-ness and talent.

A brief encore consisting of "Film Star" and that was it. A triumphant and impressive return from the UK's most glam band, this set was more or less faultless. Last to leave the stage, Codling once again sauntered off, treating us to another supercilious look and a flick of the fringe, reminding us that yes, we're Trash, you and me; but they are Suede.

Appropriately, there was litter on the breeze outside.


This Review was Originally featured  on the Alternative Music Magazine


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