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They Will Rock You
Boy band? No, just call us a girl band
Whatever they may be describe as, the British group pulled in an almost full house for their show here

Outrageously androgynous British rock group Suede was back in Singapore for a one-night only concert last night, after the first show here two years ago.

The concert this time attracted a 90-per-cent house at Harbour Pavilion, although the five-piece band may not be as big, in terms of album sales, as it was when it performed here at the same venue in 1997. The previous gig was a sell-out.

In a press conference held at Hard Rock Cafe yesterday before the show, the bassist of the band, Mat Osman, recalled: "We had very low expectations when we came the other time. We were told everybody would be very quiet."

"But when we came on stage, everybody went wild," he said with a mock expression of shock.

Guitarist Richard Oakes, who at 22 is the youngest member of the band, added: "It was one of the best gigs on our last tour."

The outfist's androgynous lead vocalist, Brett Anderson, said with a straight face: "Asia is already our playground. We can do anything we like. Anything."

This is in contrast to their previous visit, when they said they had some problems with Customs. Osman had also told a British magazine that their manager had to sign a guarantee that none of them would impersonate a woman when they made a concert stop here two years ago.

But this time round,for their encore performance here, the guys had no restrictions placed on them. There was no need to sign any guarantees and they did not even come close to any Customs officer.

Obviously in a jolly mood, betraying their arrogant and aloof image, the five boys kick-started the press conference by shooting questions at one another, instead of waiting for the largely-quiet groups of reporters to pop theirs.

The youthful-looking Anderson, who formed the band a decade ago when he was 21, jested: "We'll just talk among ourselves. And you can take down what we say."

He then fired questions at his band mates. Besides bassist Osman and guitarist Oakes, the other flamboyant members are Neil Codling on keyboards and Simon Gilbert on drums.

But the line up had not always been this way. Anderson and Osman were brought up in Hayward Heath, in the outskirts of London. As early as 1989, they had already formed the band, playing rock music with a drum machine.

Drummer Gilbert, at 34 the oldie of the group, was invited to join while he was selling tickets at London's box office.

Since then, two guitarist had joined and left, before Oakes and Codling came along.

The most vocal of the five, Anderson appeared to be the group's spokesman. Turning the tables around, he even posed a rhetorical question to the reporters: "Why do some Singapore journalists refer to us as a boy band? Why on earth? It's absolutely strange."

Indeed, their latest gold album, Head Music, contains little pop flavour, and more rock and electronica elements with hits like She's in Fashion and Electricity.

So if not a boy band, what sort of band is Suede?

All five chortled in reply: "Girl band!"

By Suzanne Sng, The Straits Times, October 1, 1999
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