Andrew Ryan 20/04/2005
“Every time I come here, I nearly F***ing die” says Bernard Butler of Wolverhampton .
A quick potted history - Bernard left Suede in 1994 following a traumatic bust up with singer Brett Anderson. The band continued without him for almost a decade before splitting. Then, to the surprise of everyone (apparently apart from Bernard), Brett announced the pair were recording together again. This time Bernard was to call the shots. They are now The Tears and tonight they play Wolverhampton.
Expectations are high. The bar is set even higher by the support act. The Departure are absolutely brill. Every song songs like the soundtrack to a moody 80s teen movie of doomed romance, in the best way possible. This is helped in no small part to an intense lead guitarist who's the spitting image of a Footloose era Kevin Bacon. The band radiate youthful energy and sincerity. Will Brett and Bernard come across as old has-beens in comparison?
While the cheers are deafening when The Tears arrive the mood is nervous. Watching their first couple of songs is a bit like Blair and Brown's recent interviews together - they're smiling, but do they really hate each other? You can't help but analyse the body language. Is Bernard interacting with Brett when he stands directly in front of the front man to play a tricky guitar solo, or is he just trying to steal the limelight and remind him who's boss now?
Either the audience loosens up or the band does, because a few songs in we're all just enjoying ourselves. Brett still sings like an angel, Bernard still plays a blistering guitar. Together they're phenomenal. The new songs are great. The slow ones tragically beautiful, the fast ones… well tragically beautiful too but with the added excitement of Bernard jumping around on stage and wiggling his bum at the audience. Brett has claimed he's got his demon back and he's certainly in a cheeky mood tonight, goading the audience to heckle, daring us to show him “some of that famous Midlands wit.”
There seem to be a few technical problems - at one point Bernard almost falls off the front of the stage and a roadie spends the whole evening wrestling with a mic stand - but it's all taken in good humour. The audience reaction grows louder with each song, a particularly loud cheer greeting current single Refugees, a typical Anderson tale of outsiders. The band look increasingly happy as the set progresses too. At the end Brett thanks the crowd, acknowledging “it's not easy to take in all of these new songs.” He teases us with a lament that “we don't know any others, we're a new band”, prompting the sole request to “play some Suede!” from a member of the audience. But The Tears insistence on being treated as a new entity could be their saving grace - I honestly stopped thinking about the pair's old er, material, three songs in and never once felt the need to hear them thrash out Animal Nitrate.