Although they're synonymous with Britpop, the Suede of 2019 belong among a select band of groups who’ve reformed sounding better than ever.
Having experienced diminishing returns before their implosion in 2003, the iconic outfit’s live return at the turn of the decade has been followed by a trio of rapturously received new albums, each serving to enhance an already sterling legacy.
The latest, last September’s The Blue Hour, was their first to chart in the top five for almost two decades – so it was little surprise to find Newcastle's O2 Academy rammed last night for the opening night of their UK tour.
The show was due to be opened by BC Camplight, but an untimely illness forced the New Jersey artist to pull out on the day of the gig..
His misfortune, however, presented a priceless opportunity for local alt rockers A Festival, A Parade, whose singer Joe Allan confessed he’d been playing FIFA in his pyjamas upon receiving the call.
Heavily influenced by indie and post-punk acts such as The National and The Twilight Sad (their name is a lyric from the former’s song All the Wine), the quartet recently headlined The Sage Gateshead and provided tour support for Sam Fender, yet this last-minute addition must surely rank as their biggest gig to date.
And to their credit they grabbed the moment with both hands, winning over a busy early crowd with cuts such as the dense, urgent Cold Shower and cathartic new number Straight to Work.
While many of their contemporaries were trading insults and draping themselves with Union Jacks, the music and image of Suede is viewed by many as a darker, sexier antidote.
Certainly, age has done nothing to dim Brett Anderson’s aura. Busting all his familiar moves, the frontman is a truly mesmeric presence, so much so that you can forgive throngs of middle-aged women – and men – for screaming like teenagers upon his arrival.
At one point, a venture into the audience sees him mobbed, hugged and kissed from every angle, as admirers grapple en masse for any inch of sweat-drenched skin they can lay a finger on.
Behind him, band of Mat Osman (bass), Simon Gilbert (drums), Richard Oakes (guitar) and Neil Codling (guitar/keys) sound utterly huge, showing their hand instantaneously with As One, the new album’s magnificent doom-laden opener.
The 90 or so minutes which follow are nothing short of spectacular, as the quintet continually find ways to scale new heights.
A classic one-two of Trash and Animal Nitrate, for instance, threatens to raise the roof, yet they’re matched punch-for-punch by more recent anthems such as Outsiders and It Starts And Ends With You – from 2016's Night Thoughts and 2013's Bloodsports, respectively.
Perhaps most remarkably of all, The Sound of the Streets sees Anderson don an acoustic guitar and perform unplugged before a near-silent audience.
It’s an audacious move in such a large room – never mind that the song itself is a mere B-side – but by and large it’s impeccably observed; a special moment, and quite possibly the quietest I’ve ever seen this venue fall.
With 16 years having elapsed since their last visit, Suede’s return to Newcastle was always likely to make for a memorable evening.
The reality, however, transcended all expectation; a truly electrifying show which even at this early stage seems certain to rank among the year’s finest.