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Live Review and Photo Gallery: Suede and Manic Street Preachers at Auditorium Theatre • Chicago

| November 18, 2022

Suede and Manic Street Preachers

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Auditorium Theatre

Chicago, Il

Review by Jeff Elbel. Photos by Curt Baran.

Despite careers spanning decades and ample respect among music fans in the know, British glam-rock innovators Suede and sociopolitical firebrands Manic Street Preachers are not household names in the United States. These facts were underscored by the number of unsold seats on Wednesday at the venerable Auditorium Theatre. What was impressive was how little the ample elbow room mattered to those either in attendance or on stage. Every fan in the room brought the energy of a diehard, and both bands performed as if their lives depended on it. Chances are if you were present, you’ve already told your friends that it was an amazing experience they shouldn’t have missed. 

Manic Street Preachers performed first, relishing their first Chicago date since a 2015 show at Metro celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Holy Bible. The set drew favorites from albums as recent 2018’s Resistance is Futile with the widescreen melancholia of “International Blue,” but curiously avoided introducing new material from 2021’s UK number one album The Ultra Vivid LamentJames Dean Bradfield was in strong voice with a powerful tenor, and he lashed into his guitar solos with enthusiasm. Bradfield unspooled fluid riffs while spinning on stage and striking heroic rock poses during cautionary crowd favorite “If You Tolerate This, Then Your Children I’ll Be Next.” The song’s sweet melody and drummer Sean Moore’s rapturous rhythm smoothed the way for the song’s strident but relevant message. Towering bassist and lyricist Nicky Wire was glam-rock resplendent in purple jacket and signature sunglasses. Wire professed the band’s love for Chicago and recalled the their first visit to town roughly 30 years ago with a show at Metro attend by “at least 24 people.” “It was one of the better-attended gigs of the tour, actually, if not the best,” said Wire with a laugh. Wire dedicated “Motorcycle Emptiness” to his brother Patrick, who lived in Chicago at the time and showed the Welsh band the local sights. Bradfield donned a sparkling goldtop Les Paul for the Stones-meets-metal riffer “Slash ‘n’ Burn” while Wire sported a red and white feather boa. The pair joined voices in harmony for songs including “Everything Must Go.” Even uninitiated listeners recognized at least one song when the band performed its cover of “Suicide is Painless (Theme from MASH).” Fan-favorite cuts included “Ocean Spray” from 2001’s Know Your Enemy. Wire offered an affectionate dedication to long-missed member Richey Edwards before performing Gold Against the Soul track “From Despair to Where.” The band earned strong audience response and participation as it built toward a powerful conclusion with Futurology track “Walk Me to the Bridge” and the agit-punk of 1992 debut album Generation Terrorists’ “You Love Us.” Before playing the final song, Wire fondly identified Bradfield as his guitar hero. The crowd then created a massive choir to join Bradfield during the paradoxically unifying anthem of class conflict “A Design for Life.” 

Soon afterward, Suede singer Brett Anderson sauntered confidently onto the stage and instantly led the audience to fever pitch. Dedicated fans had waited since a 1995 show at Metro for the band to return. The group opened with a pair of songs from its acclaimed new album Autofiction. “She Still Leads Me On” was a pealing and powerful eulogy for Anderson’s mother, followed by brash stomper “Personality Disorder.” Set to drummer Simon Gilbert’s thundering tom-tom beat, veteran guitarist Richard Oakes tore into initial axeman Bernard Butler’s blistering figures for “The Drowners” with firm command and left no doubt as to the identity of Suede’s resident guitar hero. Meanwhile, Anderson left the confines of the stage at only the third song to commune with the audience. Wading several rows deep, Anderson shared his mic to sing with fans, gave high-fives, offered emotional embraces, and appeared in dozens of selfies. Anderson stoked the energy higher during “Animal Nitrate,” standing atop his monitors to conduct a full-throated call-and-response singalong. “Silence is not an option,” he declared and demanded as Oakes unleashed the opening riff to outsider pride anthem “Trash.” Frustrated by glitchy equipment, Anderson angrily and forcefully threw his microphone to the floor during the song, but immediately channeled his emotions into connecting with the crowd for the fleeting moment he was rendered silent. By the time the song was done, the lanky singer was drenched in sweat and barely a third of the way into the band’s set of high-octane and tuneful glam rock. The singer cast “It Starts and Ends with You” as a message to devoted fans, kneeling and leaning over the rim of the stage to make eye contact and sing directly to individuals in the front rows. The Bowie-esque “Life is Golden” from 2018’s The Blue Hour became a similar song of connection and reassurance. “You’re not alone,” sang Anderson stirringly, backed by the full force of the band. Bassist Mat Osman drove the urgent, Cure-like groove of Autofiction’s defiant and self-reliant “Shadow Self” as the band locked into the song’s dark propulsion. Indicative of the evening, the sparseness of the crowd did nothing to dampen Suede’s energy and commitment, and truly seemed to serve Anderson’s apparent goal to captivate every individual in the room. During “Can’t Get Enough,” he leapt, strutted, fell to his knees and pushed his voice to the emotive breaking point at the top of his range. “We are the Pigs” arrived as another heartfelt underdog anthem that joined the room. Anderson crawled across the stage banging his head to Gilbert’s stadium chant rhythm for “Killing of a Flashboy.” The show ran at full-tilt energy until the band left Anderson to perform a gripping version of haunting Dog Man Star ballad “The Wild Ones” seated by himself with his acoustic guitar. The singer offered the second verse a capella, letting the unamplified sound of his voice wash over the rapt audience and fill the room. The band returned for a final salvo of three songs. “So Young” and US top ten single “Metal Mickey” were drawn from Suede’s self-titled 1993 debut. The show concluded with “Beautiful Ones,” a top ten hit in the UK and one of Oakes’ first co-written songs with Anderson when the guitarist joined Suede at age 17 to help create landmark 1996 album Coming Up. 26 years later, Oakes is no longer the kid, but he’s clearly still the shot in the arm and cornerstone player the band always needed in order to become whole and to go the distance. 

Suede has arguably outgrown Metro since 1995. Although both acts on this potent co-bill can pack larger halls across Europe and perform well on the US coasts, they apparently can’t fill 3800 seats in Chicago – as much as they may deserve to do so. A more intimate venue like the Riviera Theatre might have been more appropriate for this outing, but fans who missed Wednesday’s performance can fervently hope that Suede doesn’t wait another 27 years to return to Chicago. You can bet that everyone who witnessed the dynamite display will be on pins and needles waiting.

 

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