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