Manic Street Preachers


Manic Street Preachers are a band of mythologies. They were born as hard-line punks, so devoted to their ideology that their original bassist Flicker left because he felt the band were betraying their roots. That was in 1988. At times tonight, some three decades later, the Manics look and sound every bit a mainstream stadium rock band – during ‘You Stole the Sun from My Heart’ especially – and one wonders how the early incarnation of the band might have felt about that. In their defence, they keep the early days with them too, playing singles such as ‘Slash ‘n’ Burn’ and ‘Little Baby Nothing’ tonight to mightily impassioned responses from the few patches of the arena populated by fans from the old guard.

Make no mistake, that early fanbase is legendary in its own right, as documented by the 2015 documentary No Manifesto. They parade the kind of undying admiration that has carried their favourite band’s singles and albums to loftier chart placings over the last decade than their declining coverage in the outside world might suggest. Inevitably though, tonight’s crowd is primarily comprised of more casual fans, the kind that respond more to tracks like ‘Your Love Alone Is Not Enough’ than ‘Faster’.

The latter track is included as part of a three track solo acoustic set at tonight’s half-way stage from James Dean Bradfield. It is a surprising selection for that setting, but it does at least serve to highlight Richey Edwards’ extraordinary lyrics (Edwards, of course, is the number one mythology in Manics-land, but enough has been written about that now). Snatches of lyrics are emblazoned in bold red font across the backdrop all night long, each one a timely reminder that this is a stadium-filling band with fearlessly outspoken politics, a rare thing indeed. The acoustic set is completed by ‘Everything Must Go’ and a seemingly unplanned cover of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’, which, as Bradfield concedes, is a play to the cheap seats.

Shortly after a fiercely triumphant version of ‘The Masses Against The Classes’, the first Number One single of the 21st Century, Nicky Wire introduces ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’ by reminding us that this radical song about the Spanish Civil War once beat Steps to also reach the Number One spot. Is it remarkable that these songs were so successful in their time, or is it remarkable that the idea of them achieving mainstream success in this era seems so far-fetched? Either way, both are among the most spirited performances of the night, as is 1996’s ‘Kevin Carter’, their ode to the Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist of the same name.

Bradfield’s voice is powerful still, but the high notes are chosen more carefully these days. For a couple of tracks, those duties are taken over by The Anchoress, the pseudonym of Welsh writer and musician Catherine Anne Davies, who joins the band to reprise her role on the new song ‘Dylan & Caitlin’, one of five played tonight from Resistance Is Futile, their thirteenth album, released just two weeks ago.

A number of the new ones are saved for the final stages of their hour and three quarters on stage, creating something of a lull after a stellar run of crowd favourites. All is saved in the end, however, as they finish with surely their biggest hitter of all, ‘A Design for Life’. Whether Bradfield was even attempting the tough notes this time is not exactly clear, such is the racket created by the thousands in attendance. It has been an immensely satisfying and physically exhausting Saturday night, a testament both to the staying power of the band’s stage presence and to the integrity of their extensive catalogue of material.

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Max Pilley

I'm a refugee in Manchester, having successfully escaped Birmingham in 2007. I'm a soon-to-be journalism student, used to edit the music section of the Manchester Uni paper, and have done a little radio production to boot. I've been adding bits and pieces to Silent Radio since 2012, mostly gig reviews, but a few albums too. Also hoping now to get involved with the brilliant radio show. When doing none of that, you can usually find me at some gig venue somewhere around town.