Entering in elegant silhouette to the glowering, operatic doom tones of ‘As One’, the opening track from their recent suburban murder opus ‘The Blue Hour’, at first Suede appear to be using their headline slot at the second day of Zagreb’s INmusic festival (June 25) to upstage The Cure in terms of gothic atmospherics 24 hours early. Within a couple of tracks, though, Brett Anderson is leaping like a wildcat from monitors to ‘We Are The Pigs’ and wrapping himself in his microphone cord at the end of a keening and impassioned ‘So Young’, and Suede have embarked on a non-stop hits set as wild and euphoric as any in rock.
An early rush of thrown-away classics – ‘…Pigs’ careers into ‘So Young’, ‘Metal Mickey’ and the shaking, obscene murder-pop b-side ‘Killing Of A Flashboy’ – are the sort of showstoppers that most headline bands would pad their set around, but Suede are just warming up. The piano billow of ‘Two Of Us’ and a sweeping ‘Life Is Golden’, dedicated to Brett’s son, make for a powerful big ballad interlude before Brett dives out into the crowd to sing ‘The Drowners’ surrounded by fans and a frivolous ‘Lazy’ and the devilish doom pop of ‘Sabotage’ twist the dial back to ‘untamed’. A frantic ‘Can’t Get Enough’ even has a sweat-drenched Anderson quivering on all fours, as if fresh from running with those notoriously savage dogs of his.
A dynamic, unstoppable force of sheer showmanship, Brett is indie rock lightning unbottled, bawling and bouncing for ninety-minutes straight, an unbridled icon of outsider unity. “It doesn’t matter how many times they grind us down, it doesn’t matter how many times they stamp us into the ground, we always come back,” he tells the crowd as the band charged up an electrified ‘Trash’, and when the crowd finally stops hugging itself he confided, “this is like a first date, isn’t it? How are we getting on? Do you think we’re going to kiss after dinner? That’d be nice, and who knows what might happen after that.”
As the set roars towards its close, the band dot massive singalongs like ‘The Beautiful Ones’ and ‘New Generation’ with tender, intimate moments – a graceful, punt-friendly acoustic take on ‘She’s In Fashion’ and a phenomenal ‘The Wild Ones’, performed solo and part acapella by Brett in a stark spotlight. “The date went well,” Anderson tells the crowd as Suede wave their goodbyes, “we’ll see each other again.” There was definitely one hell of a spark.
It’s been a hi-octane day. Earlier, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, playing show number 2354, deliver a masterclass in crowd-pumping. “This is not a spectator sport,” Turner insists, leading a boisterous crowd in hand-jives, circle jogs and general freak-outs to his energised set of raggle-taggle folk punk (‘If I Ever Stray’, ‘I Still Believe’, journeyman journal ‘The Road’), reignited ‘50s rock’n’roll (‘Long Live The Queen’), Trump-era rebel songs (‘1933’) and gigantic semi-emo anthems. By the time he’s powered through ‘The Next Storm’, ‘Recovery’, ‘The Way I Tend To Be’ and ‘Little Changes’ you start to imagine that Turner could pick his nose anthemically.
He has his tender moments too – the title track to his latest album ‘Be More Kind’ attempts to kill today’s political madness with kindness, and ‘Polaroid Picture’ is achingly poignant: “we won’t all be here this time next year, so while you can, take a picture of us”. It all ends in communal chaos though, as Frank crowdsurfs out to waltz with a fan during ‘Four Simple Words’. The Turner army gains another 30,000 recruits.
Over at the Hidden Stage Black Honey, ‘fresh’ from driving all the way from London, provide some respite from the main stage insanity as they lurch from suave torch song to Tarantino-friendly southern surf rock. “You don’t have to kick and scream to be a punk,” says singer Izzy Baxter Phillips as ‘Bad Friends’ oozes out like a slow fever, marking them out as a sultrier Wolf Alice.
Clearly nobody’s told Shirley Manson the new punk rules though. With her neon red hair shaved into sci-fi shapes, she remains the power-stance supervixen of space rock fabulousness, stomping and snarling through Garbage’s 75 minutes of tech rock savagery designed to rip your throat out at five hundred paces. ‘Stupid Girl’ sounds positively stadium-worthy, ‘Wicked Ways’ comes with a side-order of ‘Personal Jesus’ and we’re not surprised when Shirley growls “this is the noise that keeps me awake,” during ‘Push It’ since we can still hear its monstrous electro rock squall twelve hours later. If ‘When I Grow Up’ is a spot of ray gun bubblegum fun, the rest is deadly serious: Shirley stops the show when the band mistakenly miss out ‘I’m Only Happy When It Rains’ from the setlist, champions LGBTQ+ rights and dedicates ‘Vow’ to the Seattle DJ who first played the song, who is now battling cancer. The mood is lightened somewhat when Shirley spots a “lady Jesus, rising out of the masses like a beacon,” but Garbage leave us beautifully beaten. INmusic continues tonight with a headline set from The Cure. Good luck following this, Bob.