Then-current album: Suede
Opening acts: the Cranberries, the Gigolo Aunts
Back of ticket ad: Fox Photo. Oh the suspense.
So a further word on Fox Photo – what gave, with them? Did they just decide to ad buy for everything sold within a six month stretch there? Did they get any actual business out of it? Did they go bankrupt because of it? (Lord I hope so.)
Anyway, the tour bill that was a bizarre, unexpected mismatch while it was happening, the tour that helped break up the headlining band after the fact, this tour. And this show. Which was great.
So, as muttered in entries not too long ago, I’d fallen for Suede hard, ended up at a promo lunch with them before even seeing them live, and so forth. So the fact that they were coming back through on a tour was not lost on me, as I plunged into my second year of grad school, started getting a little more familiar with the possibilities of e-mail and online existence, prepped up to begin what would be a three and a half year span of teaching of writing…I needed a little distraction and all. And again, my friend Jen V. worked at Sony so getting to this show was not a worry, for which I must thank her again.
It actually also helped that I knew the Polygram promo people well at this time too through her, since they were the ones dealing with the Cranberries. Therein a tale.
I’d actually heard a fair amount about the Cranberries via Melody Maker, they’d gotten a miniature blitz of coverage thanks to their self-released or near-to-it debut EP in 1991. Never had actually heard it, I couldn’t seem to find anyone actually stocking the darn thing, but by all accounts it was all very Sundays-like and that was all I needed to hear. Cocteaus, Smiths, etc., that whole range of goodness, of course I would be well inclined. But again, I didn’t actually hear it and then they seemed to disappear for a while.
Only they ended up on Island and released a debut album that got a bit of initial attention in the UK and none over here, until it too was released some months later. Some people still find the album a step too far after the EP – my friend Stripey says that release was all they ever did that was good, and that they started believing their own good press with a vengeance. (Stripey drew comparisons to Bono’s similar career path from early enthusiastic naivete to bravura wailing – so maybe it’s just something about being Irish and melodramatic.)
But I’ll stand by Everyone Else Is Doing It So Why Can’t We?, especially since I haven’t heard it in about a decade plus. This is because it was so overplayed by so many people that I think there’s a collective amnesia in place now. The singles “Linger” and “Dreams” became massive, massive hits, on MTV, on KROQ, on the actual charts, as did the album. Whatever the promo connections or the radio grease or whatever that was applied, that album began selling like mad, and then started doing so back in the UK as well and elsewhere. Call it another example of that 1993 year of ‘who knows what’ll happen?’ – I ended up writing the AMG review for it and while from a distance it’s something I never need to hear again, hey, I liked it well enough.
Of course, Dolores O’Riordan went nuts after that but that was the future. And at the time nobody quite knew what was going to happen so the idea of Suede and the Cranberries touring seemed like a good one – and keep in mind Sony were pushing Suede pretty damn hard, but couldn’t get much in the way of traction beyond those already inclined to like them. For all that both bands loved the Smiths, say, it was how the Cranberries took the Marr approach that ended up making bank. So by all accounts as the tour went on it was clear that most people were showing up to see the openers – and then, apparently, not sticking around after that.
However, there were exceptions to this and Los Angeles was thankfully one of them. (If not the only one, but I can’t say.) So as I made my way up the again familiar route to LA for a show with Jen V. and a couple of others I didn’t know what to fully expect, though I did figure it would be an enjoyable show at the least. Of course I didn’t know just how badly Bernard Butler was feeling at that point (and let’s face it, if your dad died while you were on tour, you wouldn’t be in the best mood, though I gather this was later on in the tour when it happened). The show being at the Palace promised something, it was definitely bigger than their club date back in summer separate from the KROQ Weenie Roast.
In any event, we ended up at the Polygram headquarters where I chatted with Jen’s friends and at one point I was invited to snag some promo copies of new releases, which I didn’t mind at all. I remember I was looking over a copy of Redd Kross’s still-underrated Phaseshifter in a side room with everyone else when I heard a ‘hello!’ or something similar. We all turned around and by god if it wasn’t two of the Cranberries – not Dolores, and so help me I can’t remember who was who in the rest of the band, but there was the one guy with long hair and glasses so I guess I remember him by default. Both of them were pleasant Irish guys and we all chatted a bit, they seemed reasonably unfazed by everything, so gotta give ‘em credit.
After that I’m not too sure what occurred except we all got over to the Palace, finding myself up front for the first band on the bill, the Gigolo Aunts. I was essentially neutral on them in that I think I was kinda drowning in pleasant power-pop bands who loved their Big Star and cheery but melancholy but poppy but etc. take on things, but hey, name yourself after a Syd Barrett song and that’s something to take away. Actually they might have been having the best time out of everyone there – being the openers, not having any sort of corporate expectations or pressure either way, just trying to keep us all entertained, and they did have a small clutch of fans up front. So hey.
I don’t remember much about the Cranberries’ actual set at all, in comparison. It was like there was the Gigolo Aunts, then an infinitely short gap and then the Cranberries were doing their thing. Now they definitely had a lot of cheers for them and all but not in a crazy explosive way, more gently appreciative, which was definitely different from what Suede got later – something that I gather was pretty much the reverse of a lot of crowd reaction elsewhere on the tour. Dolores just sang away and played guitar and all that, no bad dancing or speeches about whatever or however she was dealing with things in later years, and while I remember one song that was sort of a proto-“Zombie” it was much better than said song so maybe they should have left it at that when it came to the follow-up album. Never saw ‘em again so that was that.
Which left Suede to do their thing. Compared to the Weenie Roast show this was much more like it – a smaller venue didn’t hurt by default but everything felt much more like a show, the kind of self-willed theatrical stardom that was essentially part of their whole appeal to start with. The big red curtains at the back of the stage helped, it was all self-conscious but damned effective. I can’t recall if any new song was played beyond the debut album and the initial B-sides, but the whole place felt unstable to start with, like the floor was constantly titled. It was an interesting energy to be a part of, something unlike seeing Nirvana in the same venue two years previously. That was more some focused amazement, this was more fluid, unsettled.
Having floated around the venue for much of the Cranberries set I was back near the front for this, but not too close, it was already beyond crazy up there. The images I have for this one in my head involve things like Mat Osman almost seeming to play while slowly swaying and collapsing with a smile on his face, like he couldn’t quite believe it was all going down like it did. It felt strangely giddy, and I was just an audience member.
Then again, as mentioned, knowing that Bernard was feeling increasingly cheesed off with everything puts a retrospective light on it all – still, he seemed less out of it than when I saw him at the promo lunch, I think there were some smiles to be seen as well, if only maybe as a slight mask for his feelings or maybe just to lose himself in the music. Simon Gilbert again bashing away and Brett being Brett, a lot of swanning around to be had.
Great stuff. Glad I got to see them again in later years but glad I did get to see them once with Bernard up close and all. And, rightfully, as the headliner. Even just a year later the roles would have had to be massive reversed but thankfully that nightmare situation didn’t occur and Dolores could go off and be horrible. (Yay?)