In what I would think was late 1989 I set off to see the Manic Street Preachers at the Barrel Organ in Digbeth, Birmingham. Upon arrival it was announced the gig was cancelled. I’m no Manics expert and have it on knowledgeable advice that the gig was pulled due to the band having equipment stolen. A little research suggests it could be the ‘4 Real’ incident also? Or perhaps both Barrel Organ gigs were pulled late due to circumstances beyond the band.
Fast forward almost 12 studio albums and I get to see the Manics live for the very first time. A band that have gone through several distinct clear phases and achieved a lot of success and critical acclaim. What one notices first is the variety of the bands fan base at a Sold Out Wolverhampton Civic Hall. From hardcore Manics fans to the Lad Rock crowd to the Stadium Rock fan variety – it’s the kind of mix I haven’t really seen before. The vibe is good.
The 3 piece is boosted with session / live musicians that generate a full sound. A 22 song set, from my limited Manics knowledge is pretty career encompassing with new material to boot (from the yet to be released new album Futurology). As a generally distant observer of their music I’m surprised how many of their songs I know in some detail. There is strength throughout their discography and no period really stands out as ‘worse’ – if you get my drift.
La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh) kicks off the set and does so to a near ecstatic audience. The next song plunges forward 5 years from the Gold Against The Soul opener. You Stole The Sun From My Heart sees the venue start to leap and rock. Like I said, the sound remains at the same level and it is even more of a crowd pleaser than the arguably better opener.
Motorcycle Emptiness, It’s Not War and Europa Geht Durch Mich fill out the set as the temperature rises. Striking imagery and wordplay flashes across the large screen behind the band. It feels like a Stadium gig and intimate at the same time.
Stay Beautiful, Everything Must Go and last years Rewind The Film solidify that all career vibe more. Sharp vocals and bleeding guitar breaks mark the band apart from groups that simply cannot maintain high levels of artistic output to this extent.
Die In The Summertime, Your Love Alone. Enola Alone and Tolerate please the hardcore masses yet more before an acoustic break of James Dean Bradfield with solo renditions of From Despair To Where and Sullen Welsh Heart.
Onto more full band material and Archives Of Pain gets an airing which, almost goes without saying, pleases the more hardcore fans immensely. What struck me about this was the songs ending and that Nicky Wire returning bass outro with its unique ragged glory. Dur, nur, nur, nur, nur nur nur…
Futurolgy (the title track from the new album), Masses Against The Classes and You Love Us begin to signal the gig spiralling to and end. Peaks, levels and more peaks. Tsunami and Show Me The Wonder pave the way for a real blast from the past Motown Junk which again is fair proof of the bands near total consistency.
A Design For Life ends the lengthy set and is a perfect song to do so with its ‘all fan base’ capturing qualities. As middle age creeps near the Manic Street Preachers show little sign of taking their foot off the peddle. The ups and the downs – it seems they’ll always be around, and they are a highly recommended Live experience…