Manic Street Preachers


“C’mon everyone… sing along!”

Normally at a charged, fizzing, visceral gig like the Manics in the rather cosy environs of The Ritz, a call to arms such as this would garner an immediate, loyal response. Only, the issue here is that it isn’t the Manics… it’s the support act, Gwenno. And the song she is about to sing is a 17th Century ode to cheese. Which she sings in Cornish. As that language is dead, and the subject peculiar there is understandably a limited take-up. But that is not to detract from a really gorgeous set from the Welsh singer, whose ethereal voice trails like smoke from Merlin’s pipe, up into the upper echelons of The Ritz. There are songs in Welsh, and songs in Cornish, with back-up from a regular band (who admittedly occasionally play their instruments with violin bows) and some heritage instruments. And if you want to know what Cornish sounds like, it’s like Dornish from Game of Thrones but with less dragons. Actually… same dragons.

And indeed the Welsh dragon is draped over one speaker cabinet as tonight marks a minor Welsh incursion into England, but I am with a Welsh friend and I reckon he’s got my back if it all goes Glyndr. After an instrumental build up formed of the David Holmes remix of ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’, the band steps onto the stage and for the next couple of hours they preach their musical message to an utterly enraptured congregation. I guess I am a born again acolyte. I loved tracks like ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ first time around, and I last saw the band on the Lifeblood tour (at one point in the set James Dean Bradfield introduces the track ‘Solitude Sometimes Is’ from that album with the line “here’s a track from Lifeblood… the album it turns out no-one bought”). I don’t mind that album at all, but tonight is all about the melodic tenderness of the 1998 album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours; the kind of dusting-down of LPs past that bands like to do at the moment. To be fair, the Manics have done it a few times now, and they tend to play the smaller venues when revisiting past long players, and that makes tonight even more special – when The Ritz is packed like this (they’ve sold out both of the two nights) it really makes for a magical, charged atmosphere.

James Dean Bradfield has filled out from the rather gaunt specimen he presented behind the mirrored spectacles of the ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ video, now a cross between Mark Thomas and Huey from the Fun Lovin’ Criminals. And there are worse ways to get old, believe me. But the voice is all there – the echo of the valleys that sometimes almost erupts from the side of his mouth, as though he has little to do with the control of the message.

The first half of the set is pretty much the album track for track – absolute stonkers like ‘You Stole The Sun From My Heart’ and ‘Born A Girl’. Bradfield swaps through a mouthwatering range of guitar, from Telecasters to a Les Paul to what looks like a Gordon Smith custom (utter guitar porn) as Nicky Wire – Jimmy Page of gait, Elton John of wardrobe – scissor kicks the air like a rather glamorous heron. Wire has a wardrobe change mid set – sporting jackets featuring sequins, the name ‘Nicky’ sown into the back of one, alongside badges, patches, nice shades and a bass guitar strap carrying the name of the featured album.

He calls Bradfield ‘our leader’, but you imagine the band is a little more egalitarian in nature than that might suggest. Dedications follow to our own Poet Laureate, Shaun William Ryder, name checked in the B-side ‘Prologue to History’, the only real shift from the album in replacing ‘Nobody Loved You’. Apparently the band always wanted it that way, and can now fix it in the mix. Another dedication goes, of course, to Richey Edwards, now officially considered to have departed the building. The second set-list switch is that the Manics move the ever wonderful ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’ to form a mini encore to wrap up that part of evening, the only downside that someone chooses that moment to break gig etiquette by breaking wind, the results of which are indeed hard to tolerate, children or not.

What follows is a 10 track run through some Manics highlights, with stand-out tracks including ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’, the Kerouac-infused vibes of ‘La Tristessa’ and ‘You Love Us’. The band seem to revel in the more modest cuddle of The Ritz, having played every enormodome going. They name check all the Manchester venues they’ve played, from The International through to the football stadia (naturally, each gets its shares of boos), although interestingly they don’t seem fond of the Albert Hall.

But let’s not – like our etiquette-breaking fan – end on a bum note. Instead, let’s end with the incredible swarm of sound that concludes the set with the sting of ‘A Design For Life’. The incursion has succeeded and I am reborn. The Preachers are still on their throne. It is a Manic Monday.

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Simon is a writer, broadcaster and countercultural investigator. Over the last 15 years he has written for everyone from The Guardian to Loaded magazine, presented television for Rapture TV and hosted radio programs for the likes of Galaxy. He has also found time to earn a Masters Degree in Novel Writing and write three books (a collection of journalism, a guidebook to Ibiza and one on financial planning for young people – the most varied publishing career it’s possible to have) and establish and run a PR company, Pad Communications, looking after a range of leisure and lifestyle clients.He currently splits his time between researching his PhD at Leeds University, looking into various countercultural movements; consulting freelance for PR clients; writing for the likes of Marie Claire in Australia, The Big Issue and the Manchester Evening News, where he reviews concerts, theatre and is their Pub & Bar Editor. He is also broadcaster, appearing regularly on Tony Livesey’s late night 5Live show for the BBC, and also for BBC Radio Manchester Gourmet Night food and drink show.Simon’s main focus has been music and travel. His career has included editing Ministry of Sound’s magazine in Ibiza for two summers and also writing two long-running columns for DJmagazine – ”Around The World in 80 Clubs” (which took him everywhere from Beijing to Brazil, Moscow to Marrakech) and “Dispatches From The Wrong Side”. A collection of the latter was published in the UK and US as the book Discombobulated, including tales as varied as gatecrashing Kylie Minogue’s birthday party, getting deported from Russia, having a gun held to his head by celebrity gangster Dave Courtney and going raving in Ibiza with Judith Chalmers. He has recently written for the likes of Red magazine, Hotline, Clash, Tilllate, Shortlist and the Manchester Evening News. Pad Communications has recently consulted for clients as varied as Manchester nightclubs and New Zealand toy companies.On a personal note, Simon is a Londoner who left the capital at the age of 18 and never looked back. He sees himself as a citizen of the global dancefloor having lived in Sydney, Los Angeles, Ibiza and Amsterdam. However his life is now rather more sedentary. After all his adventures he bumped into and subsequently married his highschool sweetheart from their North London Grammar. They now live in Stockport with their four children and four chickens, trying to live the good life. Simon recently turned 40 and is steadfastly refusing to have a midlife crisis – as in, growing a ponytail and buying a shiny red sports car.OK, maybe he’ll buy the sports car…