2005 is obviously the year of reconciliation.
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have buried the hatchet and are glued to each other’s side during the current election campaign, Guy Chadwick and Terry Bickers reunited earlier this year as House Of Love, and next month supergroup Cream will play their first gig in decades at the Royal Albert Hall.
One musical pairing that most people thought would never share a stage again are Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler. When their working relationship acrimoniously broke down during the making of the superb Dog Man Star album many thought they’d never work together again.
Yet after Suede‘s break up and a succession of disappointing Butler solo projects, they’re reunited under the banner of The Tears. The last time they played the Leadmill it was on a cold February night in 1993 and the queue stretched round the block and up the road to the local ice rink. Although interest inevitably isn’t quite at that level these days, the Sheffield venue is still packed tonight with people curious to see if they can recreate their heyday.
It doesn’t get off to a good start however. As the lights dim and the band take to the stage, Bernard Butler positions himself behind the piano and plays the opening chords of Love As Strong As Death. It’s a stately piano ballad, in the mode of Suede’s The Next Life, and probably isn’t the best way to start the set. However, once Bernard did a fancy little walk across the stage (reclaiming his place as one of the coolest men in rock), plugged in his guitar and cranked out the opening chords to The Lovers, it’s clear that the magic was still intact.
As to the music, well it sounds very like Suede inevitably. Although its more the Coming Up era of the band rather than the epic sound of Dog Man Star that’s brought to mind, it’s just great to see Anderson and Butler back onstage together. Anderson is still as impossibly skinny as ever, while Butler steals the show by sidling up to his singer, spinning around, shaking his arse and generally having the time of his life.
Of course, that guitar sound dominates proceedings – whether it be the epic sound of Europe After The Rain, the mesmerising Brave New Century or the future classic that is Apollo 13, Butler effortlessly proves he’s one of the finest guitarists of his generation and Anderson is his perfect foil.
Audience interaction is kept to a minimum – Brett doesn’t actually speak to the audience until about six songs into the set and later berates us for being “a girl guide meeting”. Although to be fair, when the entire set consists of songs that the majority of the audience are unfamiliar with, it’s difficult to get too excited.
Throughout the show, there had been calls for old Suede numbers – as someone shouted for Animal Nitrate, Anderson fixed the audience with a withering stare and sarcastically laughed. It came as something of a surprise in that case when, during the encore, they unexpectedly dropped the old B-side to Stay Together, The Living Dead, into the set. It was just Brett and Bernard sat on the speakers at the front of the stage, and it was quite beautiful.
It would be nice in future to see more interplay with the other members of the band – it was easy to forget that there were actually three other people on stage other than Brett and Bernard – but generally, this marked the more than welcome return of one of music’s best partnerships. They may never provoke those queues up to the icerink again but the forthcoming album Here Come The Tears should go some way to reigniting those glory days.