Suede | O2 Academy | Leeds | 14 Feb 2016

National Treasures...

Suede completed their short "Night Thoughts" tour at the O2 Academy in Leeds last night, with a terrific performance that first challenged and then delighted the packed audience. Released about three weeks ago, the wonderful "Night Thoughts" album has, justifiably, received widespread acclaim. A modern-day concept album covering topics as suicide, death, assault and mental breakdown might seem on the bleak side but it is one which offers plenty of gorgeous highpoints such as the anthemic "When You Are Young", "Outsiders", "No Tomorrow" and "The Fur & The Feathers".

It seems natural that an album with such a cinematic theme is accompanied by a film, directed by renowned photographer Roger Sargent, but Suede took the daring approach of performing the first of their two sets - comprising of "Night Thoughts" in full - behind a translucent curtain upon which the aforementioned film was screened. During this time, singer Brett Anderson and guitarist Richard Oakes were visible only occasionally, but when they were it was eerily effective - Oakes sitting, Anderson often kneeling as he sang the emotionally draining and dramatic songs.

It may sound arty, but it was far from pretentious and delivered two things - it demonstrated the sky-high confidence of a band at the top of their game and with the sheer balls to play an entire album of new material in sequence, and in full, before saying a word to the audience. It also meant that the new songs were dealt with "en bloc", as per the album's intention and cleared the way for a second set that was an unadulterated joy of singles and classic album tracks.

From the start of this second set with "Moving", "My Insatiable One" and "Can't Get Enough" Anderson had the audience spellbound cutting the same skinny, angular, charismatic figure he did back in the heady days of Britpop. It is almost impossible to believe Suede released their debut album almost 23 years ago. The long departed Bernard Butler aside, Suede’s line-up remains pretty much as it was back then with Simon Gilbert (drums) and Mat Osman (bass) providing a rock solid rhythm base for guitarists Richard Oakes and Neil Codling to add what was necessary be it delicate accompaniment on "Europe Is Our Playground" or searing riffs on songs like "Trash", "Animal Nitrate" and "Beautiful Ones".

It may well have been a concert of two distinct two halves but that did not stop it being one of the more entertaining evenings I’ve had for some time. It was perfect pop - brave, stimulating and joyful – and confirms Suede’s place as one of our national treasures.

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