Live Reviews

Brett Anderson @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

22 January 2010


As all good Suede fans know, a reunion is promised for later this year, in the name of charidee.

It took, therefore, either enormous self-confidence in his solo material or enormous self-absorption for Brett Anderson to kick off his current mini-tour with a set consisting purely of material from his last three albums. Knowing Brett, of course, it’s undoubtedly a decent bit of both.
Kid Harpoon warms up the West London audience. He’s not perhaps the most obvious choice of support for Brit-pop survivor Anderson but, with an acoustic guitar all he needs to fill the hall, his razor-edged folk provides the perfect antidote for the pomp that will follow.

Finishing on the Bonnie Prince Billy song Horses works particularly well, and if it wins the Kid a few more fans tonight he should be doubly grateful, as these followers are a particularly hardy lot.

The loyalty and dedication of Anderson’s fan base enables the merchandise stand to sell hardback lyric books before the concert starts, and the promise of a USB stick containing MP3s of the live performance afterwards. It is also, of course, what allows him to get away with a set that not only forgets that Suede ever existed but runs in full through his recent album Slow Attack, released last November, before venturing further back into his oeuvre at all.

For lesser performers this might be considered a mistake but for Anderson, whose voice is as strong today as it was two decades ago, it works. His arrival on stage is heralded by industrial electronic feedback pumping out into the gloom, segueing cleverly into the minimalist piano of opening song Hymn.

New and familiar at the same time (his voice is too distinctive for his material to be anything else) the songs pack a punch he’s built up slowly across his solo material, taking on more pomp and glam-rock trappings with each successive offering. Very theatrical tonight, he enjoys himself with a wry twinkle in his eye, as though he knows something we don’t and is enjoying the game.

Anderson doesn’t perform Slow Attack in track-by-track order. He mixes it up to keep us guessing. Nonetheless having the entire album in a single block works well, drawing a line between the new songs and the slower, more gentle offerings from his eponymous debut and 2008’s Wilderness. And only Brett would have the cheek and pomposity to add a backing cello to his acoustic guitar for Clowns. There is a raw and delicate beauty in the overblown glam of his performance, self-awareness and self-parody of the highest order in equal measure.

The darker, more maudlin older songs are best heard separated from the more upbeat recent material, with Love Is Dead and Song For My Father working particularly well in this structure. He ends on Back To You, an orchestral power ballad of the type only he can manage.

The set works. Anderson has matured perfectly since the trashy glamour of Suede, growing into a respectable bohemian chic of the type you can imagine gazing out over Suede’s asphalt world self-satisfied and warmly content. Does it matter that he doesn’t touch his old band’s back catalogue at all? Not really – we’ll have the Albert Hall reunion for that. Let him indulge himself tonight.


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More on Brett Anderson
Tracks of 2011: May – August
Brett Anderson – Black Rainbows
Brett Anderson @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
Brett Anderson – Wilderness
Brett Anderson @ Mermaid Theatre, London