Famed U.K. band Suede returns to Chicago with new album, perhaps garnering U.S. celebrity at last

The band, known here as The London Suede, never really made it big in America, despite mass success across the pond for 30 years.

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Simon Gilbert (from left), Richard Oakes, Brett Anderson (foreground), Mat Osman and Neil Codling of Suede.

Simon Gilbert (from left), Richard Oakes, Brett Anderson (foreground), Mat Osman and Neil Codling of Suede.

Dean Chalkley

When Brett Anderson walks down a street in London or any other European city, he’s usually mobbed by fans. That’s because he’s the lead singer and founder of Suede, one of England’s most popular bands of the last 30 years.

Declared “The Best New Band In England” by Melody Maker before its 1993 debut album was even released, Suede has sold millions of records and played to full houses in England and the rest of Europe for decades. Yet, if Anderson were walking on a Chicago street, he’d likely not be recognized.

That’s because the band never really made it big in America, despite mass success across the pond. Nevertheless, the band has persisted, and is coming back to Chicago to play the Auditorium Theatre on Nov. 16, a full 27 years after its last gig in the city.


The London Suede

With: Manic Street Preachers

When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16

Where: Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr.

Tickets: $39.50-$300

Info: auditoriumtheatre.org

Suede, known as The London Suede in the U.S., played Metro in 1993 and 1995 after its first and second albums, but has not toured the U.S. since that 1995 trek (notwithstanding playing Coachella as a one-off in 2011). The tour is in support of the band’s’ newest album “Autofiction,” its ninth offering. Suede is co-headlining with fellow U.K. musicmakers Manic Street Preachers.

Anderson, speaking to the Sun-Times from England recently, said the decision to tour the U.S. after such a long absence wasn’t something pondered for a long time.

“It wasn’t a big plan, it just was one of those things that landed in our laps and we decided to do it,” Anderson said, adding that co-headlining with the Manic Street Preachers also was favorable. “We loved the idea of doing it with the Manics; it seemed a fun thing to do. We know them very well, we’ve toured with them before, and have a lot of respect for them.”

With its Bowie-esque glam, Suede has remained one of the most popular bands in Great Britain (the group broke up in 2003 but reunited in 2010), outlasting fellow UK groups such as Oasis, Blur and Pulp — bands lumped together by the press as the key bands of the 1990s Britpop invasion. But like those other bands, Suede never achieved major crossover success in the US, something WXRT-FM (93.1) DJ Ryan Arnold finds puzzling.

“How they never popped like The Smiths over here is a real head-scratcher. The band ticks off every box,” Arnold said, adding that currently the only song off “Autofiction” being played on WXRT is the single “She Still Leads Me On,” but even that has only been played on the station’s show “The Big Beat” since being released in October.

The highest charting Suede song ever had in the U.S. continues to be “Metal Mickey” — a single off the 1993 debut album that reached No. 7 on U.S. pop charts. The fact that the band never matched the success it has had in Great Britain and Europe is something Anderson attributes a lot to having to change their name. In the summer of 1994, a Maryland-based jazz singer who performed under the name Suede won a lawsuit that forced the band to market itself in the U.S. as “The London Suede.”

“We had some momentum in the early ’90s with the first album. Then we had to change the name and I think it really disturbed that,” Anderson said. “Beyond that, I don’t know. We can go why bands become big in places and not big in other places, but who really knows? You can sit and speculate and talk about Englishness, but who really knows? Lots of it is timing and luck.”


The Suede lineup in 1994: Simon Gilbert, Brett Anderson, Bernard Butler, Mat Osman.

Sun-Times file

Suede has endured long enough to earn a whole new generation of fans in the U.K. — “Autofiction” recently hit No. 2 on the UK charts and may earn new North American fans with the current tour.

“It’s been a really brilliant thing,” Anderson said of the bands’ new European fans. “There’s obviously the people who have been there for a while, but there’s a whole new sea of faces, a lot of 20-year-olds in the audience and that’s an amazing thing.”

As for getting new fans on this American tour, Anderson said he would welcome it but is not banking on it.

“It would be nice to think so but I don’t really know what to expect. … I’d love to think that the new albums could provoke a reaction with American fans. That would be a lovely surprise but I’m not counting on it because you cannot expect these things.”

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