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During a hugely productive spell lasting almost the entire period of the 90’s Brett Anderson established his pedigree as a song writer and an outstandingly talented lead vocalist with Suede – one of the most innovative and exciting bands of the era – mixing glam rock influences with scandalous tales of dark sexuality to produce a collection of quality music until, perhaps inevitably, the excesses that came with the lifestyle led to the demise of the band. Recently however, not only have the band reformed for a series of successful comeback gigs in support of a release of their back catalogue but Anderson himself has also discarded the safety net of his former band mates and the crowd pleasing anthems of old to embark on a series of solo dates to promote his excellent new album “Black Rainbows”.

Given that the Suede tour has resulted in a series of sell – out dates, the choice of the smallest of Manchester’s Academy venues comes as something of a surprise but the basement room packed with Andersons loyal devotees provides the perfect warm (in every sense) and intimate setting for tonight’s performance. Following his band onstage, Anderson - dressed in black and still possessing the handsome angular features of his youth – is the living proof that the lucky ones can live the life of rock star excess and come out the other side unscathed as he still maintains his familiar stylish poise. As a declaration of intent for the forthcoming set the band launches into the soaring album opener “Unsung” setting the standard for the night.

Following what were three quite acoustically flavoured albums Anderson has spoken of how he entered the studio with the desire to – in his own words -“make a record that sounds like a band playing” so, declining to write any of the songs beforehand they were created as a series of jamming sessions drawing on wide ranging influences from Public Image Ltd and the Cure to the Horrors, amongst others, until the tracks took shape. The result is a body of work that, combined with quality musicianship and Anderson’s natural stagecraft, transfers effortlessly into a great live set with songs such as “Exiles” - driven at full speed, fuelled by the anger found in lyrics - “Your hatred is weakness and your carelessness is no mistake”.

The passage of time has done little to dull Anderson’s on stage performance as he works the small space to its limits, one moment dropping to his knees in supplication the next perching on the monitors to thrust himself into the crowd pressed against the barrier eager to embrace their sweat – soaked hero. “Crash About To Happen” – one of the albums poppiest tracks - carries a hint of a guitar sound somewhere between Johnny Marr and the Cure with its cautionary warnings on life’s inevitable pitfalls. Although there are no Suede tracks on display tonight the strength of the new material is surely enough to satisfy all in attendance – none more so than current single “Brittle Heart” with its swooping chorus and anthemic overtones. Anderson’s only compromise to energy conservation came as his band left the stage for him to settle behind his keyboard stating modestly that  - “this was where we discovered his musical limitations” – which was met with a generous response from a female admirer of – “I don’t care!”. Full power was restored as the band rejoined him to conclude what was a blistering set packed with energy and style fronted by a man who mixed cool poses with warm smiles to perform a set that he appeared to enjoy every bit as much as his satisfied followers.              

Review & photos by Shay Rowan

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