Bush Hall was made for Brett Anderson. Tucked awayin the darker end of West London, facing out onto theUxbridge Road where junkies, tramps and meejapost-production PAs vie for pavement space, it sitsamid the neon signs of fast-food shops and peelingpaint of cheap fabric emporiums, a venue culled from alost Suede B-side, an outdoor broadcast fromthe asphalt world. Inside, there are chandeliers andmoulded plaster, outside the pubs dare you to profferallegiance to anyone but QPR.
Let’s look at the history that has led us here. Atthe dawn of Britpop, a band as idiosyncratic as TheSmiths, as glamly androgynous as David Bowie andas dark as Joy Division swathed tales ofconcrete jungles in orchestral opulence. Suede sang ofpicnics by the motorway, of heroin and racism and madeAsda sound romantic.
It’s been too long since they went away. SinceBrett Anderson pulled the plug with two incrediblenights at Brixton Academy and the Astoria, leaving uswith a claim that the band had stagnated and a promiseto See You In The Next Life… (I bought thet-shirt).
In between, he treated us to The Tears, adelve back into the past of what could have been, hadoriginal guitarist Bernard Butler not left atthe height of the band’s fame for one great single anda career of unfulfilled promise. The Tears soundedjust like Suede did once and yes, we welcomed it, butultimately it was a project that was going nowhereeither.
But now Brett’s back, with a new album and a setthat’s no longer afraid of the past, content andconfident and sure of who he is: one of the mosttalented performers of the past 15 years.
Tickets for tonight and the two subsequent showssold out in minutes but it’s a curious crowd thatstands beneath Bush Hall’s chandeliers. The eponymousnew album has been all over the internet for more thana month (it’s not officially released until the 26March) and yet the audience barely seems to know anyof the songs: a few nods to forthcoming single Love IsDead, already familiar from the radio, but that’s all.Only one emo teen, wearing a See You In The Next Lifet-shirt, seems to have bothered to do his research.
Brett doesn’t seem to mind. Exuberant andenergetic, in top shape and on top form, he beltsthrough the forthcoming album, offering a set ofall-new material. One Lazy Morning sounds particularlylike the anthemic Suede of old, Dust and Rain is thenew generation’s paean to the needle, and Song For MyFather puts to rest the ghosts that haunted The Tears.In the middle, he throws away Suede obscurities tosort the wheat from the chaff. Most of the audiencedon’t even notice.
The new songs sound strong and fully-formed, a goodbridge between the sweeping orchestration of Dog ManStar and the designed-for-live-performance Coming Upand Head Music. If Here Come The Tears was the albumthat would have followed Dog Man Star, this is thealbum that would have followed A New Morning. It’s nota new direction, it sounds like the Brett we know andlove, but if you’ve missed him it’s a welcome return.
He leaves the stage to an audience who like whatthey’ve heard and comes back with an encore thatthanks them more than they deserve. A haunting, pareddown, acoustic version of The Wild Ones, a trulyanthemic Everything Will Flow, and a last shout ofTrash, for all of us who’ve been there before and whowished he’d never gone away. Brett Anderson is God. Noargument.