Sun, 26 Jan 2003

Suede in concert: Brings up all out about positivity

Hera Diani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Word has it that the stage has always been a way for British band Suede to escape life's slings and arrows.

This was undeniably true as Britpop's unstoppable five kicked off a rocking performance here on Thursday night.

As the lithe and muscular front man Brett Anderson jumped, danced seductively and twirled his microphone in acrobatic arcs, he belted out a set of songs that confirmed the group's status as one of the UK's most important and influential bands.

With sounds resonant of a blend between David Bowie and The Smiths, song after song was played to a loyal audience some 4,000-strong, who packed the Indoor Tennis Stadium at Senayan Sports Center, Central Jakarta.

The star of that night was none other than Anderson himself.

While he appeared unusually quiet at a media conference the day before the show because of a sore throat ("I'm saving my voice for tomorrow," he joked), he was game to get on stage.

Accompanied by guitarist Richard Oakes, bassist Mat Osman, drummer Simon Gilbert and guitarist/keyboardist Alex Lee, Anderson yelped and jumped like he was still the same 23-year-old college boy who established the band in 1990.

Other times, he lay down while singing, chatted to the audience, or sat on the edge of the stage during a number.

"The next song will be the last song if you don't sing along with me," Anderson said after a short break in the middle of the concert.

Backed only by Oakes, Anderson performed an acoustic intro to Obsessions, the second single from the band's latest album, A New Morning (2002).

The singer then pointed the microphone towards the audience for the next stanza: "It's the way you pick your clothes off the floor/It's the way you scratch your skin when you yawn/It's the t-shirts that you choose like you're in the air force."

The rest of the band then reappeared, playing the song in full arrangement, while the backdrop showed a line from the song: "Obsessions, it's like sex".

The performance on Thursday really shook off all of the negative press surrounding the band.

Suede is still alive and kicking after 13 years of their tumultuous career, surviving various personal changes, drug addiction and doubts over their existence and talent.

As Anderson put it once, "The history of this f--king band is ridiculous. It's like Machiavelli rewriting Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

Named after Morrisey's hit Suedehead, the band kick-started the renaissance in British guitar groups in 1990 and was called the best new band in Britain before they had released more than ten minutes of music.

They scored hits with 1992's Metal Mickey and Animal Nitrate, and their self-titled debut album Suede (1993) justified the hype.

Anderson confirmed his talent for lascivious lyrics and anthem-like choruses, with songs penning tragicomic dramas of real people and real lives, or as he put it, "the used condom under the bed."

Suede also became renowned for their B-sides, which were often as good -- or even better -- than their hit singles. My Insatiable One was even famously covered by Morrissey himself.

When the band covered The Pretenders' Brass in Pocket for the NME's Ruby Trax Charity Album, Pretenders' lead singer Chrissie Hynde declared Suede's version better than the original.

Despite a legal grumbling with a singer that forced the band to call themselves "The London Suede" in America, the band continued to release great music: the one-off hit Stay Together and the album Dog Man Star in 1994.

The stunning Coming Up was released in 1996, their most commercially successful record thus far with hits like Beautiful Ones and Trash.

Head Music came three years later, with a new, colder, more electronic sound and the hits She's in Fashion and Electricity.

Suede detractors, however, have often pegged the band as cold, cynical, pretentious and humorless. The emerging of bands like Oasis and Blur later seemed to dwarf Suede's previous achievements, further overshadowed by the departure of several members and bouts of drug addiction.

Having sobered up four years ago, the band began working on a new album which was released at the end of last year.

"It's an optimistic, simple title. I spent ten, 15 years killing myself and it's all stopped. That's why the album is called A New Morning," Brett once said.

With newly recruited member Alex Lee, the album came out fresh and well-crafted, and each track sparkles.

The album, however, reportedly does not sell well in the UK despite great reviews.

"We set the scene for the music of the decade. Nineties' music wouldn't have been the same without Suede. But we'd be pretty stupid if we were still trying to be flavor of the month," Anderson said in a recent interview with Britain's Q magazine.

Although it may not be well-received in the UK, the album -- and the band -- are very much welcome everywhere else in the world, including Indonesia.

"Thank you! I'm very surprised with our reception here," Anderson thanked the audience, who ceaselessly jumped and joined the band's singing.

From Dog Man Star numbers to those from their latest album, the audience followed Anderson's melodramatic voice and sang along by heart.

The stage is indeed Suede's milieu, and the audience here was lucky not only to witness a simply great performance, but also the sign that the band is here to stay.