Review by Sara Reynolds with photography by John Bentley

Suede, Leeds O2 Academy

Great to see B.C. Camplight on stage tonight as support act to Suede. The singer has had an interesting trajectory up until this point. Moving from Philadelphia, after nearly resorting to living on the streets, to Manchester England purely on a fans suggestion. Where in the UK his career started to take off. Later Camplight was deported to Paris, due to overstaying his visa.

B C Camplight, Leeds O2 Academy

Well he’s back now, and being played regularly on BBC 6 Music. Camplight certainly lives his emotions through his music, with songs like ‘Deportation Blues’ and his biggest hit to date ‘Desperate’ played here tonight at Leeds O2 Academy. Camplight is an imposing figure on stage with a self assuredness reminiscent of fellow US artist John Grant. At one point Camplight grabs his piano stool and shakes it in the air, like King Kong shaking a plane at the top of the Empire State Building. This guy’s been through a lot, he’s both lost himself, and found himself again. A pretty original and authentic act… which brings us onto tonight’s headliners…

B C Camplight, Leeds O2 Academy

When David Bowie passed away in 2016 I vowed I’d never again miss the opportunity to see a band I loved, when the opportunity presented itself. So I took the grey and long road from Birmingham to Leeds on a Wednesday night to see one of my favourite all time bands, Suede.

My fascination for the band had been reignited with the release of ‘Coal Black Mornings’. Brett Anderson’s first autobiography published in 2018. The book looks back at his childhood in Sussex, and his rocky road to making it big with his band Suede. Brett Anderson’s second autobiography is to be released later this year.

Suede, Leeds O2 Academy

Anderson on stage, now aged 51, still cuts a svelte and snake hipped front man. He is physically little changed from how he was at the height of the band’s fame in the 1990’s. That, along with his dynamic performing presence, you would seriously believe he was in his early 30’s. Suede have actually been going for four decades – yes four decades! There’s certainly a little less of the original androgyny to Anderson’s look, now replaced with a mature manly sophistication. Yet swagger our lead man still possesses.

During the main set we are treated to renditions of many of Suede’s biggest hits from the 90’s and early 00’s including We Are The Pigs, Metal Mickey, Trash, Animal Nitrate and Asphalt world. All so close to the original recordings it’s hard to tell them apart. Most bands that come ‘back from the dead’ cannot attain this, but Suede do, and with some gusto.

Suede, Leeds O2 Academy

During the set Brett touches on the importance of playing the new music too, because “thats what it’s all about right?!” He asks the audience. I think that’s really what keeps this band fresh. Unlike many of their contemporaries – the ability to be ever creative and look at life anew. The set is bookended by hits from their last two albums ‘Night Thoughts’ and ‘The Blue Hour’. Night Thoughts inspiration being Anderson’s move to the country (unlike Suedes 90’s gritty realism of the streets). The band have certainly had a successful ‘second coming’, reforming back in 2010, and The Blue Hour in my opinion, is one of their best albums.

The band line up has changed over the years, obviously sans Bernard Butler for many decades now… maybe just maybe one day if we’re lucky… Butler’s legacy though, remains in the music, and it’s hard not to remember he was a catalyst, alongside Anderson, in creating the original sound of Suede. The other band members are: Mat Osman (original member) on bass guitar, Simon Gilbert on drums, Richard Oaks on guitar, occasional keyboard and backing vocals. Neil Codling, also guitar, keyboard and backing vocals.

Suede, Leeds O2 Academy

At points when Anderson addresses the crowd he comes across as pretty emotionally open, and describes what a delight and privilege it is to connect with them his arms open wide. It’s in these moments that Anderson comes across with unexpected boyish charm – quite changed from his 90’s alter ego – the lip curled, drug dazed version of his former self.

Anderson often describes how he’d originally wanted to be the “quiet one at the back”, but quips that he didn’t have enough talent for that – so ended up as Suede’s front man. Some of Anderson’s greatest influences in his songwriting, have come from the gritty realism of bands such as The Smiths, but also very much the glamour and creativity of his hero and friend, David Bowie. Yet Suede have always managed to never sound like another act. Anderson, throughout time has always denied being part of the almost ‘Carry on esque’ scene of the Britpop movement. They were certainly hailed as the best new band in the country at the very beginning of that era (Melody Maker 1992). Though Suede never adhered to such labels, and struck out with a very different style of indie rock. They stood apart from their peers including Blur and Oasis. Anderson has said that Britpop was really the “last big movement in alternative music”, and that, he says, was the best thing about it. Brett Anderson though, felt Suede’s sound was more akin to the portrayal of real life, similarities to which you’d be more likely to find in films by the director Mike Leigh.

Suede, Leeds O2 Academy

So what did I learn from tonight’s performance? That this is a band that is still evolving. I look forward to the future of Suede’s music, and I’m sure David Bowie would be proud.

Suede, Leeds O2 Academy

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