Brett Anderson

Brett Anderson, Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 22-01-10

Oasis were loved by the boozed up masses, playing their massively chorused, admittedly unforgettable, tunes in every arena that came across their path. They were the everyman band, they were just like you, if you worked a McJob and lived for the weekend. Blur were the aesthetes, moulding a new version of Britishness for teenagers honed on a diet of American grunge. They pretended to be like you, but Damon’s wide-boy act was easily dissected as self-consciously arty pretence. And then, there was Suede. They wrote about a druggy, glamourous escape from the suburbs, their music was lush and dramatic, camp and sexualised. It was perfect indie pop and Brett and Bernard were the Morrissey and Marr for the 90s. And they were forgotten in the Oasis/Blur crush. I adored them - in the unique way that you love a band when you’re 17. Then, as you get older and your tastes become wider, and yet more discerning, you can’t help but wonder if it was all just 6th form poetry after all? But even if you waver and question the true quality of those teenage fixations there’s no doubt that the original feelings stay real.

Uncertainty aside, I came to think that they deserved better and more recognition as one of the great British bands of the 90s. They were the first band to be on the cover of Melody Maker before they released a song and were promoted straight to the cover of the NME at pretty much the same time. The knives were out but when The Drowners arrived, the critical praise and frenzied acolytes poured forward. I remember watching them on the Brit Awards; Brett struck that androgynous chord with me that Bowie had done some years earlier. Shaking his hips, whipping the mic-lead, with his skinny frame barely covered by a chiffon cardigan, there stood the next descendent of Bowie and Morrissey. The latter couldn’t resist covering their Moz-ish B-side My Insatiable One. Always with an eye toward the bitchy he then proclaimed in an interview, ‘Brett Anderson will never forgive God for not making him Angie Bowie.’

After a string of superb singles came the epic Stay Together followed quickly by Dog Man Star, which became one of my favourite albums of the decade. Bernard departed; to be replaced by a teenage fan that followed his, at first, slavish imitation by co-writing hit after hit on Coming Up.

After their split, followed by a well-publicised bout with drug addiction, Brett has, to little attention, moved forward into a surprisingly brilliant musical reinvention. Not that you would know about it, since his albums don’t attract the press these days. Admittedly out of nostalgia I grabbed a ticket for last night’s gig, my ardour having been reawakened by the news of Suede’s forthcoming brief reformation, minus Bernard, who seems busy enough wasting his talent on helping Duffy make average records, for one of March’s Teenage Cancer Trust gigs.

Everyone wanted Suede songs, there were none played. At first there was an understandable restlessness to the crowd, with it being a Friday night and everyone desperate to remember what being young was like. For an artist whose not yet made his name as a solo artist this is a dangerous game. You’re selling tickets on reputation while virtually no one knows any song they’re hearing. And then suddenly, you let go of the reason you came, you forget that you were there to recapture a part of your youth. And the reason this happens is because of the dark, lush, Scott Walker-ish, torch songs coming at you. Cello and piano fill the room and that voice, more powerful than it ever was, sells it. It hardly hinders that the man has charm to spare. Now 42, he’s still dazzling to look at, in a sunken-cheeked Man Who Fell To Earth kind of way, still rake thin and still as impossibly sexy as he was in 1993.

Brett Anderson, the great overlooked icon of Britpop. I’d wondered if I’d be disappointed if nothing old was played. It was a rediscovery.