Suede @The Halls, Wolverhampton, 13th December 2023

There are not many bands like Suede, that after thirty years in the music business (apart from their seven-year break in 2003) can still be vital and inventive. There are certainly others that survived, but Suede still seem like a band that have something to prove and have a hunger to impress on an artistic level, rather than just regurgitating nostalgia for old fans who are desperate to relive their early 20’s. Suede are clearly proud of last year’s new album ‘Autofiction’ and it makes up a lot of the set, the songs comfortably sitting amongst the hits, without feeling out of place or a pale imitation. Brett calls it their best album yet a couple of times during the night, although he does sound like he is trying to convince himself rather than his audience, as judging by the front row of the stalls, which is made up of many young faces, Suede are winning new fans, as well as those of us in our 50’s who have kept coming back for three decades.


As the band walks on stage, it is immediately clear there is a hierarchy at play in Suede; the lead singer clearly is numero-uno, top dog, head of the pack… take these three deliberate examples: Brett is the last to walk on to receive his own applause; he wears a white shirt whereas the other four Suede members wear all black; and apart from Richard who is stage left, everyone else is behind him. Mat very occasionally moves forward to swing his hips like the old days, but then he moves back when the lead singer comes close. As such Brett is practically the sole focus for the ninety-minute set. Maybe this is an ego thing, but he works his socks off and is not still for a moment, (apart from his solo acoustic number mid-set, where he sits and sings with just an acoustic guitar). I have to say though, there is not a hint of arrogance from him at all, long gone is the aloofness of the 90’s, he is clearly happy in his own skin and loving every minute… and his energy is infectious, with the whole venue jumping and clapping with him.

Suede put together a crowd pleasing set that covers most of their albums, including some B sides and leaves out none of the hits. Brett mentions a couple of times that his voice is not what it was, and that his falsetto has all but gone, but honestly, it sounds more powerful and honest than ever. Thankfully the Wolverhampton audience don’t need much encouragement to help sing along when asked and the atmosphere is electric throughout. During ‘Drowners’ he descends into the stalls, immersing himself in adoring fans, never missing a note of the song. I initially thought why is he still using a corded microphone when a wireless one would give him more freedom, but as he often does the Daltrey-esque thing of throwing and twirling the mike, it wouldn’t look quite the same with no lead would it?


Amongst the blistering performances of their big hits, the highlight for me is actually the new song ‘The Only Way I Can Love You’ – it is palpable how much the band know this is a fantastic song. You can see it on Brett’s smiling face as he moves along the front row of adoring fans, holding hands and being hugged. The track jumped out of the speakers the first time I heard the album last year; it is an immediate classic. Suede are exceptional at producing mood pieces, but when they hit a chorus as exceptional as this, Brett is right, it is the best thing they have ever done and the crowd are all in agreement. If the music business had not changed so much, this song would have been number one all over the world now.

My only reservation about the gig is that visually it is almost a one man show; Richard plays beautifully of course, he is an astonishing guitarist, but he does not have the presence of a certain Mr Butler – but maybe there is only room for one ego on a Suede stage. There is no doubt that this group of players have created an unbeatable catalogue of songs that surpasses early Suede, but there will always be discussions about which Suede is the best live version, with some believing that the Butler period was the perfect incarnation, and it wasn’t Suede after he left. However, to be a real stickler for Suede roots you can’t beat the original when the Alesis HR16 was the drummer.

Suede are touring again next year with the Manic Street Preachers in much bigger venues, but for me, a venue like Wolverhampton’s Halls is a perfect fit.

Special mention must be made for the support tonight, the stunning Desperate Journalist. No, not me, but a London based post-punk band (originally The Drowners from Birmingham, although I don’t remember hearing their name when they were in my backyard in 2012 – maybe I thought it was a Suede tribute band). They provide a stunning sonic backdrop of guitar noise, driving bass and machine-esque drumbeats to the powerful and otherworldly vocals of Jo Bevan. They have been around a while and are well worth checking out.

Turn Off Your Brain and Yell
Personality Disorder
15 Again
The Drowners
Animal Nitrate
My Insatiable One
Indian Strings
She Still Leads Me On
Shadow Self
Europe Is Our Playground (Brett Solo acoustic)
The Only Way I Can Love You
It Starts and Ends With You
High Rising (Brett and Neil on Piano)
So Young
Metal Mickey
Beautiful Ones
That Boy on the Stage
New Generation

Review and photographs: Alan Neilson

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