Brett Anderson, Tabernacle, London
**** (4 out of 5)
Reviewed by Rob Sharp
Much has been made of Brett Anderson’s apparent happiness in the musical “wilderness”. After the hedonism of the 1990s (all that energetic, drug-fuelled positioning of himself away from Britpop), the 42-year-old is now very much a solo artist and seems more content for it.
For a year (well, they are described as being on “indefinite hiatus”), he hooked up with his old Suede partner-in-crime, Bernard Butler, in the briefly-formed Tears, though having caught them live a few years ago, the music almost seemed like a sideshow for their rediscovered friendship.
While Butler has gone on to write music for the likes of Duffy, Anderson is still penning and performing tortured, pared-back music with intelligent, almost folky lyrics. The songs sometimes soar into the bombastic realms he was hitherto known for, and those on his forthcoming album, Slow Attack, are no exception (Anderson writes on his website that there are “a couple of songs on there that I would proudly sing next to anything from my career, and that, I think, is about as much as you can ask.”)
Tonight he performs much of his new material, with the one-off appearance of the man he wrote the album with, the somewhat understated guitarist Leo Abrahams, who has recorded with the likes of Brian Eno and Ed Harcourt. Tracks to get an outing tonight include “Julian’s Eyes”, its title reminiscent of Franz Ferdinand’s “Michael” (which, seemingly, ripped off Suede in the first place), “Scarecrows and Lilacs” (these first two are my highlights, recalling the off-key pop sensibilities of Suede) and “Summer”; many of the tracks are augmented by strings and piano. From his earlier solo work there is “Love is Dead” and “Song for My Father”, released on his first solo album, Brett Anderson, in 2007. For the ladies, there is plenty of the Anderson posturing of old. He’s still got it; this is a man who always knows where his fringe is. At points he stands with his back to the crowd, nodding contemplatively, at other times he holds his microphone aloft like Willy Wonka trying to kill a spider with his cane.
The gig is packed out. It would be reductive to say that these are just the Suede fans of old; he is very much generating a brand new following for his solo work. This forthcoming release will undoubtedly turn heads.