In the Summer of 1994 as a young man of 24 I was lucky enough to get what was at the time a dream job of working in a local independent record shop. I would work there for the next 7 years and in truth the job helped me grow-up and have a healthy routine whilst enjoying almost every minute of it, (it being work!).
After a few weeks the guy that changed the displays, Ray – put up an eye-catching window display for the Manic Street Preachers – The Holy Bible, their new album. Jenny Saville was featured in The Observer magazine at the time to coincide with the albums release, I can recall this more than the music at the time to be honest. The painting Strategy (South Face/ Front Face / North Face) by Jenny Saville is the artwork used for The Holy Bible. Fittingly name wise the album is held up now as the bands masterpiece.
I had at the time seen the Manic Street Preachers as a generational divide band. Truth is they really were generational terrorists playing music out of sync with the baggy rise of the Stone Roses and the alternative Sub-Pop strains of Nirvana, etc. Schooled on Post Punk, U.K. and American Hardcore personally I observed the Manics with the kind of distance a lot of music lovers my age do? Their first two albums are full of what are undeniably catchy alternative rock classics. So why didn’t I get it? A lad just over 10 years my junior would spend a lot of his free time in the shop. He was obsessed with the Manic Street Preachers in the healthiest of ways. I would banter with him and lend him Electro Hippies records which he would return beaming asking for more. He was practically a carbon copy of myself. The perfect younger brother I never had. Truth was he looked up to the Manics the same way I looked up to the Dead Kennedys. Generational divide – Generational musical Terrorists of different kinds yet cut from the same cloth.
Fast forward to 2014 and a very Hardcore Manic Street Preachers following are anticipating The Holy Bible played live – in full at The Roundhouse, Camden, London. The scene is set with a DJ set by Erol Alkan playing Joy Division, PIL and other music which fits the Manic Street Preachers in 2014 like a hand in a glove. This tension builds as the band arrive on stage to a remix of their own sound. Then, BANG, we’re in.
Yes splits friends standing together. A natural selection of jostling, crowd surges that you are unlikely to find at current standard Manics gigs. Everyone’s up for this. People stop tweeting about being there and get lost in music. Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit’sworldwouldfallapart has its Reagan / Thatcher mentioning sample jeered causing an already much-needed collective smile from band and audience. More people surge to the front – I begin to realise my age. Of Walking Abortion gets more fists and bodies in the air. Chaos is a great homage and the dancefloor is getting messy.
Album tribute gigs are common cash cow affairs these days – this is not the case here. As the very slow burning fan in me comes to life one can sense what the band are doing here. An exorcism. A love-in. Respect for the lost main contribution of the albums creation She Is Suffering glides and shimmers.
Archives Of Pain with that doomy intro is weighty. The missing guitar and stage spot of Richey Edwards is covered partially both musically and physically as James Dean Bradfield commands the stage properly for the first time – yet it is not him but the whole remaining three members who visibly are carrying this. That hollow guitar streak snakes with whirlwind effect until Wire’s bass bring the song to a death kneel. Then its spot the grown teenager who rinsed The Holy Bible time with Revol – just like myself with the Dead Kennedys – Hardcore Manics fans bleat every word. I can associate and it’s a glorious sight and sound.
As the gig rolls I’m looking for the bands response. Largely it’s masked – not them army masks of the accompanying era but they’re playing their cards close to their chest. During 4st 7lb Bradfield lets his guard momentarily slip, I’m pretty sure that’s not sweat running down his face. He looks over at Wire who happens to be looking away, it feels like intrusion. I’m watching too closely so I look around, those fans properly revelling in this bring my smile back. Guitars are swapped as Mausoleum becomes an unlikely live classic, how did I spend 1994 listening to Elastica whilst this was dropping for real?
Faster with its spat out lyrics and tighter than tight sound spins this thing out of control. More people run to the front slamming into those standing still. That push and a shove of gig etiquette. Understood here, lost elsewhere. This Is Yesterday is a needed foot off the pedal giving way to the more electric Die In The Summertime and stark brewing power of The Intense Humming Of Evil. Then the drill of that 80’s sound of The March Violets / Southern Death Cult style introduction of PCP which quickly checks itself as fans that know this album inside-out bellow every word. If you’re going to do a Classic Album gig have a reason. The reason here is mourned and celebrated for every single note, bar and word.
An intermission then the band show the need to play for the present and future. Show Me The Wonder from 2013’s Rewind The Film is well placed to move things forward. Then back, way back for Motorcycle Emptiness. Both songs sound a world away from The Holy Bible – both ends of a colourful spectrum walking around the black, white and light red of pain of THB. Dreaming A City underlines where the Manic Street Preachers are in 2014, a sound scape of guitar and space. Then the anthemic familiarity for even the lay fans You Stole The Sun From My Heart sees the audience nearly drown out the PA. A rousing Postcards From A Young Man hits home more with the long serving fans before the band show their real 2014 hand – Europa Geht Durch Mich with its mid period Goldfrapp electronic swagger looks onward and indeed upward, a great song. If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next is the sound of the Manics at a mainstream peak, as familiar as it will be to many it takes on a new dimension this evening – if Carling did anthemic Rock crossovers eh? The band introduce the inspirational B-Side Donkeys to the already converted, needless to say it goes down a storm. Walk Me To The Bridge and Divine Youth canter to pull more ears to the futurology which appears bright, safe and sound. Andy Cairns from Therapy? joins the band for You Love Us and it’s clear he’s loving the moment, a fitting guest. A finale of A Design For Life finishes the show, ticker-tape showers the room, and again the crowd almost drown out the PA. If it wasn’t for Mark Morrison history would show a string on mid-90’s Number 1’s from The Prodigy and the Manic Street Preachers back to back which would mark them heady record shop days of mine much better than they do. The Holy Bible seems 20 years ago, not an hour back all of a sudden. A disorientating celebration. Music doing the talking. Simple.
Goldfrapp play on the PA as the lights go up, probably a Futurology subliminal nod? It’s all makes sense all of a sudden and finally I’m going through the bands back catalogue with real added intrigue. Which brings me tonight. I decided to look for that Manics fan from the record shop on facebook to see what he was listening to these days and continue our music banter and recommendations. In my seven years working there I watched that young fan grow from wide eyed gawping wonder of underground records I lent him to the tables turning and him lending me the first EP from The Beta Band and many obscure fantastic records from widereaching genres. With a common name he was proving hard to find… then I found in disbelief a charity tribute Cancer Relief tribute facebook page. I clicked and it was him, he was only 29. I’m dedicating this review to him and know how much he’d have loved this show. Also thanks to the very special person who took me along to this gig, really enjoyed it…