Suede @ Carling Academy (07.12.03) and The Strokes @ Braehead Arena (01.12.03)
Their careers are separated by ten years with minimal overlap, but the fanfare with which The Strokes were welcomed at the start of the current decade seems curiously similar to the blistering hyperbole that made Suede the favourite band of many who should know better in 1993. Both have been touring in the last week – The Strokes in support of their second album, “Room on Fire” (not quite a Stevie Nicks’ song), Suede to bid farewell to their still considerable fanbase. Some thoughts:
– both brought decent support bands British Sea Power (The Strokes) and Razorlight. The former are far more convincing than in recorded form, the latter have a new (think Kings of Leon, Libertines) meets old (Waterboys, Van Morrison) clash that is not nearly as hideous as it sounds.
– Braehead and the Carling Academy are depressing venues. The former involves being diverted through a huge shopping centre, when the direct route would mean not being tempted by the delights of Ann Summers, McDonalds or any of the faceless, corporate consumer traps which are all conveniently open late for the Xmas period/ concert goers. There is then a lengthy queue outside next to a ned-magnet fairground/ carnival. Needless to say, a stationary line of Strokes’ fans offers plenty of scope for berating the assembled “Students.” The beer is expensive, the queues for beer non-negotiable, and the sound in the basketball arena characterised by the drum beat hitting the back wall and bouncing back some three seconds later.
During one of Suede’s less engaging tunes, I marvel at the design of the Carling Academy. Unlike Braehead, it is actually a good place to see rock, and architecturally impressive but the whole place is designed around the idea of the ease of the sale. It is easy to buy beer, no matter how busy. It is easy to see and buy merchandise. It is easy to buy tickets for other concerts. Indeed the selling of the sponsor’s brew is carried out with a kind of grudgingly admirable military precision. Which ever angle it is viewed from, live rock has lost its innocence, and is now as much about strategic marketing and maximising the spend per head as it is about music.
– There is a bit of a crush at the front of The Strokes’ show. It is hard to know what the standing part of the crowd are getting so excited about – and it is always difficult to find oneself on the side of the health and safety nazis (the other reason for the sanitising of live rock), but this looks dangerous. On being asked to stop, the band seem contemptuous of the danger to their audience. Pack them in, take the cash. It is not a pretty spectacle.
– “Room on Fire” dominates the start and end of the Strokes’ set – in the middle they introduce the frankly superior songs from their debut. Perhaps in ten years time, we will view it more favourably. This is certainly true of Suede’s second album, “Dog Man Star.” The best represented in their set, the ambition (which at the time seemed like pomposity) actually represented their musical (if not commercial or critical peak).
– It really has been downhill since Butler left. Suede has, for some time, been Brett Anderson and relatively faceless backing band. I wonder what will happen if any of the Strokes’ depart. Only drummer, Fab Moretti, has the remotest of stage presence – the front line is largely static and disengaged. Being drawn to the antics of the drummer says much about the show.
– Suede have had their fun. Who knows/ cares if they will come up with anything good in their solo ventures? How long before a reformation? They have chosen the right time to go – quitting while they are not quite ahead, but not as behind as they would be if they kept churning out the rather mechanical albums of recent years for a little bit longer. How long before we get to say the same of The Strokes?