Tuesday, January 28, 2003
Went to see my favourite band, Suede, tonight at the Akasaka Blitz. Here's my review:

From outside, the Akasaka Blitz, in the heart of Tokyo, looks like a branch of MFI. It’s a corrugated monstrosity surrounded by dazzling tower-blocks, ugly and out-of-place in the big city. And thereby perfect for a Suede gig. Brett Anderson’s lyrical concerns – trashy, sad, glamorous, lonely people, drawn to the metropolis like moths to a flame - have hardly changed over the years. He excused the repetition on ‘Head Music’ by saying he was trying to create his own lexicon. In fact, he was strung out on crack and too wasted to come up with any good lyrics. Despite his new clean-living lifestyle, the words on last year’s ‘A New Morning’ were no better. ‘Sometimes things aren’t like they are in lifestyle magazines.’ No shit, Brett. The first single from that album, ‘Positivity’ was reviled by Suede fans, and ‘A New Morning’ failed to make the top twenty. It was all a long way from the days when Suede were hailed as the Best New Band in Britain, kickstarting Britpop and paving the way for Blur, Oasis et al.

So some people might expect the Suede who are currently touring Asia, including their first ever visit to China, to be like a knackered old war horse, not knowing when to give up.

Wrong. Far from being knackered, Brett has never looked leaner or meaner. In their day, Suede made the Libertines look like a bunch of straight edgers, but now Brett is a walking, mike-swinging, hollering advert for abstinence and going to bed early. He prowls onto the stage, grinning like someone prone to statements like ‘I’m high on life’, and we’re off. They rattle through ‘Beautiful Loser’, ‘Trash’ and ‘Metal Mickey’. They slow things down for ‘Everything Must Flow’. They nearly start a riot with ‘So Young’. The energy that Brett exudes is so strong that you can almost see sparks flying off him. The rest of the band do their job, but right now Brett IS Suede. He seems happier than he ever did in the past, and the crowd respond in kind, beaming like loons as they bounce up and down along to ‘New Generation’. Brett says how happy he is to be back in Tokyo, and the crowd, who haven’t got a clue what he’s saying, roar.

Suede have such a strong back catalogue that the songs from ‘A New Morning’ find it difficult to shine. ‘Positivity’ is the low-point of the evening, and ‘Astrogirl’ sucks the momentum out of the encore. But ‘Obsessions’ is a Suede classic, with its piercing harmonica and Bret Easton Ellis references, and live it’s even better, with a long, slow intro that suddenly spasms into life.

At the end, after a rousing ‘The Beautiful Ones’, the man in front of me looks like he’s just climbed out of a swimming pool and I’m nearly crushed to death by teen girls at the T-shirt stall. Everybody’s buzzing. Suede are alive, well and galloping. The Best Old Band in Britain.