Live @ Bristol Carling Academy
December 9, 2003
Review & Photography: Steve Bateman

On November 5, 2003, Suede released a press statement, announcing that as from next year, they would be working on their own individual projects - and that there will not be a new studio album, until the band feel the moment is artistically right to make one.

Feeling out-of-step with the current music scene, Brett discussed some of the reasons as to why the band decided to split. He wrote: "Personally, I feel that the only way to escape the artistic dead-end I have found myself in, is to work at least for a while, outside the band. There has been speculation about record sales and chart positions, but the bottom line is, I NEED TO DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GET MY DEMON BACK."

"I know that a lot of people will never be able to understand this. I'd like them to know that this is not a decision we have entered into lightly, and ask them to trust that ultimately, the band know what is best for Suede. Finally, you should all know that we will remain good friends, and that I can genuinely see us working together again. What we have done has been too special to just throw away."

But 2003 had been a very eventful year for Suede, including:

- A five-night residency at London's 350 capacity ICA (September 22 - 27), playing each of their albums on a different night - in full, in order and in succession - including tracks never before performed live, and encores consisting of rarities and B-sides. This was an amazing feat that had never been attempted before, and the gigs were held amongst an exhibition, featuring Suede artwork and other memorabilia, from the band's decade-long career.

- The publication of their first official biography, Suede: Love And Poison (released on November 3) which was written by long-time band associate, David Barnett.

- Playing their first ever shows in Mainland China, with two nights at Beijing's Chao Yang Gymnasium (February 3 and 4).

Fortunately, Suede's forthcoming tour - to promote their Greatest Hits album, Singles - was to remain unaffected, with a farewell show, taking place at the London Astoria on December 13.

However, even before the band walk on stage tonight, the venue is filled with emotion. The hedonistic 'city sleaze and glamour' habitually associated with Suede, and their past plaintive aura, has resulted in a devoted fan-base and cult-like following - which is why it's not surprising, that many fans ask me if R*E*P*E*A*T has a petition that they can sign, to help keep the band together. There are even a group of Japanese fans in the front row, who have flown over especially for this tour!

At precisely 9.30pm, Suede hit the opening notes of the rarely performed Introducing The Band, and hot on its heels, comes the sexually charged and deliberately ambiguous glam rock stomper, Animal Nitrate. With its memorable riff and Brett displaying his tireless showmanship - he's bouncing around / repeatedly screaming "What does it take to turn you on?" - my initial thought is, this is going to be a classic Suede show. The band (wearing sharp clothes) are dressed to impress, and I know I've said this before, but they look as 'cool as fuck.'

Filmstar, Can't Get Enough and Metal Mickey keep the momentum going, until Brett takes a breather and plainly announces "This is an old song from Dog Man Star," Richard then plays the intro of the glorious The Wild Ones. It's perfect in every way and given the circumstances, as Brett sings "And oh, if you stay…" - the song is even more touching than usual.

The Bowie-esque Picnic By The Motorway, is another rarely performed track and you're left wondering why. It's beautiful and is in many ways, one of Suede's most underrated slow-burners. Next up is a song for the hardcore fans, The Living Dead. The venue is a sea of darkness, and the only light that's shining, is on Brett, who's poised centre-stage with his acoustic guitar.

Suede are giving 110% tonight, and Alex, Brett, Mat, Richard and Simon, look to be really enjoying themselves - Brett in particular, is smiling and laughing. Therefore, deep down, I truly hope that this is a tour of celebration, rather than a final farewell. She's In Fashion, Attitude, So Young and New Generation, bring us back into the land of Suede's Greatest Hits, and then take us onto two of the 90's most significant anthems, Trash and The Beautiful Ones.

When Brett stops to observe the audience during Trash, he asks "What are we?" and we sing back, "We're trash - you and me, We're the litter on the breeze, We're the lovers on the streets, Just trash - me and you, It's in everything we do, It's in everything we do…" It really is a special moment! Afterwards, he dedicates The Beautiful Ones to the fans, "This is the last one, and it's for all you beautiful people."

After 5 minutes of chanting and cheering (from a demanding audience awaiting Suede's return), the encore begins with an intriguing song that could easily fit onto Head Music. It has a keyboard loop (played by Brett), which randomly samples the vocals "You like sex, you like to have sex" - "That's a new song called Music Like Sex" Brett informs us, "Now here's a very old song," before the timeless piano-led The 2 Of Us.

My initial reaction after hearing Introducing The Band, right up until The 2 Of Us had been correct, this had been a classic show. But it got even better - as the set reached its climax with two lush and epic masterpieces. Firstly, The Asphalt World and then (with Brett thanking us for coming along), the sublime theatrical ballad, Still Life.

As one of Britain's most pioneering bands, it's true to say, that the story of Suede has been both romantic and sad in equal measures. It has been a tale of triumph and tragedy, and of love and poison. Hailed as 'The Best New Band In Britain' by the Melody Maker in 1992, through to their ambitious sophomore LP Dog Man Star, and Bernard Butler's departure in 1994. To the hugely successful Coming Up re-invention in 1996, to Brett's drug addiction and Neil Codling's struggle with illness in the late '90s, to the creative uncertainty of the band's latter material.

However, in early January 2004, NME.COM exclusively revealed that just days after the band's final gig at the London Astoria, former song-writing partners Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler, were seen out on the town in London (December 17), drinking and catching up. The pair haven't admitted to speaking since their acrimonious split in 1994, during the recording sessions for the classic Dog Man Star.

Before this historic meeting, Bernard Butler famously said, "I've fallen out with two people in my entire adult life, and both were in public. When I left Suede, I didn't do it because I fell out with people, I did it because I didn't want the producer we had to mix an album. It was a case of call my bluff - it was him or me - it was a stupid mistake and I was stupid enough to go for it. It shouldn't have gone that far, but I had to go. I've reversed one of the fall-outs and could reverse the other at any point, if I saw the guy (Brett). We had a big fall out, but time's a healer and all that stuff. I've worked out what I wanted in life, and realised I'm not going to let that stand in my way."

Whilst there is no certainty that Bernard will ever re-join Suede, there is at least now, a better chance than at any time before. Coupled with the fact that the band are to release a rarities compilation (to fanclub members), and Brett's insistence that "There will be another album" - there is indeed, a great deal left to look forward to.

So for the time being, thank you for the music and for the memories… see you in the next life.

A very special thanks to Phill Savidge @ Savage & Best, for all of his help, and to Suede + their management / security.

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