Suede at The Olympia Theatre 10th February 2016
Using film or video at a gig isn’t especially a new idea. Gorillas exist via that medium. MGMT use video as a gimmick to distract from their lack of showmanship. Suede’s latest album, ‘Night Thoughts’, was touted as being the soundtrack to a film and their latest tour, stopping off at The Olympia Theatre, brings the audio and visual elements together in a live setting.
Sequestered safely in the darkness, there is a worry that Suede’s performance will take a backseat to the events unfolding on screen. Every now and then, a backlight brings a member or members of Suede into focus, positioning them on screen with an almost ghostly presence. If it had been implemented badly, Brett Anderson could have looked like an overenthusiastic language signer on TV and ruined the spectacle, but Suede get it just right.
Anderson takes on the role of narrator as opposed to ringmaster for the duration of this section of the show, following the protagonist’s movements through intense and at times claustrophobic feelings of love, anger, exhilaration, redemption and sorrow. At times when Anderson appears on screen, it is as if he is delivering a soliloquy from the depths of a watery grave, as the onscreen protagonist struggles to reconcile himself with the stark reality of a failed relationship in the face of his powerful rose-tinted memories – the effect is chilling.
Performing ‘Night Thoughts’ in this manner is risky – there’s no time for resting between songs and no room for error, as the band must keep pace perfectly with the film or the effect will be lost. Invariably some of ‘Night Thoughts’ weaker material still feels lightweight compared to the glorious Brit Pop throwback of songs such as Outsiders and No Tomorrow. However, I Can’t Give Her What She Wants is the most successful marriage of visual and song, creating a palpable sense of dismay amongst the audience.
The chronological rendition of ‘Night Thoughts’ to film isn’t the entirety of the show however, and following a break Suede remerge for a more familiar set of hits and treats, giving the crowd exactly what they want here, in a barnstorming career-spanning performance.
On form Brett Anderson is like a majorette, decathlete, and strutting peacock rolled into one; a charisma volcano that doesn’t stop erupting. In The Olympia Theatre he is at the top of his game. Whether it’s wandering through the crowd during Trash or slamming a fan who interrupted him during Down, he brings an enormous sense of fun to proceedings. Watching him work the crowd is enough to leave you feeling exhilarated and exhausted.
Suede barrel through a set of classics including Animal Nitrate, Filmstar, So Young and Metal Mickey – when a band has accumulated such a strong back-catalogue they can afford to take a chance on something new. It could have backfired, but it was a triumph and shows that Suede have a lot more left in the tank.