For whatever reason, some bands just can’t gain a foothold in the US; I don’t think it’s a matter of being ‘too British’ for either Suede or Manic Street Preachers but American audiences just didn’t latch on to them the way their home crowd did. Twenty years is a long time to be away (only five or so for MSP) and Suede’s (I’m sure some lawyers got involved to make them be billed as The London Suede for these North American shows, but I’m not going along with that nonsense) absence unfortunately didn’t make the collective Boston heart grow fonder. Plenty of good seats were still to be had, though the faithful scooped up all the prime seats in the front orchestra section of this creaking, ancient venue. One nod to modernity was the new seats in that section, but if you were in other areas, the beaten down and crooked seats of yore were still there.
As per a usual co-headlining tour, the bands swap opening and closing duties as they criss-cross across the country, and so it was the Manics turn to get thing going. Well, they did for certain factions of the audience and there were boisterous hoots and hollers throughout the Welsh band’s turgid set. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a band so entirely and mind-crushingly dull, every drum beat and tempo stamped from the same template, every melody somehow being the least memorable one you’ve ever heard in your life. Workman-like is about the kindest words I can offer for them, and their covers of the M*A*S*H theme and inexplicably Madonna’s “Borderline” were perplexing and predictably terrible. At least front man James Dean Bradfield knew what was up when he said “It’s a fucking great song. We’ll do our best to ruin it.” Mission accomplished. But a band who’s headlined Glastonbury and Reading Festivals and sold 10 million copies of their records obviously resonate with some people, and while I don’t get what they are doing, pockets of hardcore fans were definitely there to see them play.
The difference was palpable when Suede took over. Lead man Brett Anderson really brought it, the fire still burning white hot in his (slim) belly. Their most recent record is really quite strong, and leading the show with two songs from it (“She Still Leads Me On” and “Personality Disorder”) didn’t feel out of place at all; no ‘legacy act’ fumes coming off those two at all. Anderson would jump up on his box at the center of the stage all night, and also had a strong desire that he acted up to get down into the audience, especially in the front stage right section; those fans got a much different experience than 98% of the rest of us. David Yow was smiling somewhere, though noting that Brett had his feet planted on the floor.
Anderson took a bit of quiet break as the rest of the band went to have a pint of bitter or eat some marmite or do whatever Brits do while he took a seat right at the edge of the stage and sang “The Wild Ones” with just an acoustic guitar as accompaniment. Some of the harder glam songs gave off strong whiffs of Bowie, but this version was really striking as a parallel to Bowie’s early years. Boston didn’t get “So Young” but “Animal Nitrate” and “The Drowners” and “Filmstar” and “We Are The Pigs” were incredible, the band firing expertly on all cylinders. At the close of the show Anderson made a comment to the effect that it would be the last time they play here and if that’s the case, they went out in a completely brilliant blaze of glory.