Up Against "The Suede Jinx"

Sound not so hot at Suede's Toronto gig.

It probably should have been one of the concert highlights

of the year for me.

The timing seemed right. One of my favorite bands of

the '90s, Suede (that's The London Suede to you Yanks), was making a stop in

Toronto at the sold-out Warehouse to give us grateful Canucks a taste of the

punchy glam-rock from their latest album, Coming Up.

Coming Up,

the band's first release sans founding member (and guitar hero for those who

still care about such things) Bernard Butler, brought them back to the top

of the pops in their native U.K. I was anticipating something powerful, maybe

even perfect.

I got ready in all the right ways, ingested all the right

things, and was pumped, ready to finally see a band I'd somehow managed to miss

each time they'd played here due to a variety of ridiculous reasons, a

phenomenon I referred to as "The Suede Jinx." This time, things looked good, as

our group of four Suede devotees cabbed over to the Warehouse in plenty of

time, making sure there'd be no early starts to catch us off guard. I strolled

up to the press area, where us music journalist types often pick up our passes

to such events, brimming with enthusiasm, both genuine and artificially

induced.

Once again, I totally underestimated "The Suede Jinx.'' "You're

not on the guest list," I was curtly told by an unsmiling hag seated in a

little cubicle guarding the entrance to the club. She was one of those past-it

types who insist on wearing leather pants and loads of makeup, nose rings,

etc., trying to look 20-something when well into their 40s, and brought to mind

those people in ads warning you about the effects of hard drugs.

"But I

know I'm on the list, I'm reviewing the show for Addicted To Noise," I kept

insisting.

"You're not on the list" came the mantra-like reply. I noticed

that so far she hadn't even checked the damned thing. It was now down to a

staredown -- it surely seemed that the jinx would continue.

"I want you to

actually check the list, page by page," I added forcefully. "I'm on the

list."

She glared at me...



She glared at me, and perhaps realizing that this Anton La

Vey look-alike getting increasingly pissed off was going to be more trouble

than she'd anticipated, actually began perusing the damned guest list, which

seemed unusually lengthy on this night. In about 30 seconds, she'd miraculously

located my name.

"You're on the list" she said with an air of

disgust.

I felt elated -- I'd beaten the jinx at last! I was now ready to

go rock out with Brett Anderson and the boys. But, oops, wait a minute: The

decaying Queen of the Warehouse wasn't through yet.

"You're on the list,

but I can't let you in--you're late" she smirked.

It would be at least

another 30 minutes before the band took the stage. Yet I was "late." "Late?

Late for what?" I thundered.

"Just late. But I'll tell you what." She

pulled out a wad of tickets. "I'll sell you a ticket for $20. That's the best I

can do."

I felt like reaching though the cubicle and grabbing her by her

wrinkled neck, but instead threw a $20 bill down, grabbed a ticket out of her

greedy paw, and after passing the inspection of the gestapo-like goons who pass

for security at this, the most loathsome concert venue in the city, made my way

inside.

The stage was dark -- at least I'd made it! I had just enough

money left for a beer, which I quickly quaffed to cool off and get back in the

proper mindset. Then I noticed something odd: Although the show had been billed

as sold-out for weeks, the place was only about 2/3 full! Something fishy was

going on here.

Finally the lights dimmed and out they came, Brett Anderson

and his merry crew. As they lit into "She," one of the hottest numbers from

Coming Up, all seemed well--Anderson, thin, dressed in black and

sporting a new, spiky hairdo, shaking his bottom and emoting intensely, seemed

like the ultimate amalgam of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, embodying a new mutation

of glam-punk sass for the '90s. Also visually interesting was new keyboardist

Neil Codling, who plays the role of the quintessential fop, sitting at his

keyboards with a static air of studied indifference, contrasting nicely with

his manic singer. The two, Anderson and Codling, comprise a sort of postmodern

version of Ron and Russell Mael of the underrated '70s glam-pop group

Sparks.

Unfortunately, "The Suede Jinx" wasn't about to loosen its grip so

easily. The infamously bad acoustics at what some patrons unlovingly refer to

as "The Whorehouse" soon boondoggled the band. Classic faves such as "So Young"

were turned to mush, as its signature guitar-line, now played by the capable

Richard Oakes, was buried in the murky mix. Worse, the, ahem, "sold-out" crowd

soon fell victim to an (M)TV-watching kind of passivity, leading Anderson to

complain about their lack of enthusiasm.

To give him credit, the

Brettmeister continued to struggle against what was a rapidly degenerating

situation, and near the end of the set Suede broke through with a pair of

winners: a raucous, Stooges-sounding number which could have come from Raw

Power whose title I didn't catch, and an absolutely stunning version of

perhaps Suede's finest song yet, "Europe Is Our Playground," in which

Anderson's impassioned vocals and Codling's keyboard atmospherics combine to

conjure romantic vistas a la Bowie's "Station To Station" and the songs of

Jacques Brel. This one's too good to have been relegated to the B-side of

"Trash."

Despite the determined hoots and hollers of a few of us, however,

the crowd response to such moments of Suede-ian brilliance was a big yawn. Come

encore time, instead of clapping, they merely started heading for the exits,

and the band justifiably blew off their scheduled return to the stage.

"The

Suede Jinx" thus retains its hold over this unfortunate rock scribe. Of course,

reports of the next night's show at Ottawa's superior Barrymore's nightclub

indicate that it was a blinder of a gig, with the band returning for spirited

encores, the whole thing.

If I'd made the five-hour trip, naturally, they

would have stunk the joint out. And I wouldn't have been on the guest list.