Me in my Manics fan "uniform." ;-)
If there's one thing that should be relatively common knowledge to anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis, it's my deep and unending love for the Manic Street Preachers. From the age of 16, they've been a constant in my life and I can't imagine my world without them.
So, on Saturday (14th May), I got all dolled up in my glitter, eyeliner, feather boa, tiara, homemade top and fairy wings and headed from my uncle's flat in Birmingham to the Genting Arena, along with my lovely gig buddy Kirstie, to see the band for the
millionth fourteenth time.
Normal clothing is not required on gig days...
The band are currently touring in celebration of their classic 1996 album, Everything Must Go, which is now a whopping twenty years old (and I feel ancient). The plan was to play the entire album in full, from start to finish, before pausing for a brief break prior to treating the audience to a short second set, packed with hits and the odd rarity. As plans go, it was a pretty brilliant one, to be honest.
Everything Must Go is as close to perfection as any album I've had the pleasure of listening to. It soars majestically along, with sweeping orchestral melodies and touching moments of poignancy in amongst the almost stubborn positivity of the album as a whole. To hear every track played, one after the other, was an absolute treat for the ears. The band were on top form, sounding like the tight unit we know them to be, and they looked the part, too - Nicky Wire showed off not one, not two, but three different jackets over the course of the show.
The strangeness of hearing Design For Life second in the set (rather than being saved for the show-stopping finale) was overcome by the crowd's enthusiastic singalong and the promise of yet more goodies to follow. Everything Must Go has always been an album that flows beautifully well and this translated into a live performance that never felt like it had gone off the boil, or left you wishing they'd play something else. Songs such as Enola Alone and Further Away rocked the arena and left you wondering how on Earth the band even managed to choose singles from an album packed with so many gems. James Dean Bradfield's gorgeous acoustic rendition of Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky was enough to bring a tear to your eye. And when the bombastic guitar solo at the end of No Surface All Feeling kicked in and streamers shot into the sky and fell above the heads of the band's faithful fans, it was a moment of sheer euphoria.
Before the second set kicked in fully, James treated the audience to a short game of "Manic Street Preachers bingo," encouraging fans to shout out song suggestions for him to play on his acoustic guitar. It's a testament to the level of devotion the fans have to this band, that many of the requests were for obscure b-sides and album tracks - this is a fandom that passionately devours anything the band produces. In the end, James went for late 90s single, Tsunami.
There were a few unexpected little gems in the second "greatest hits" set; a cover of Fiction Factory's Feels Like Heaven and Natwest-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds from the Manics' debut album, Generation Terrorists, were highlights. In fact, the only thing I would suggest to further improve Manics' shows, would be to include more of these rarities. After all, we're talking about a band who've recorded over ten albums, meaning they have literally hundreds of songs to choose from (especially when you include B-sides) when picking a set list. As much as it's good that the band are aware that they have casual listeners in the audience who will be expecting the well-known singles, rather than obscure tracks they've never heard, it does sometimes feel like the Manics veer too closely on the side of caution. Purely from a personal point of view, I wouldn't mind songs such as It's Not War (Just The End of Love) and Your Love Alone Is Not Enough being dropped to make way for some lesser played album tracks from the band's back catalogue. There's still Design For Life, You Stole The Sun From My Heart and other such crowd-pleasing staples to placate the casual listeners with, after all. Whilst songs like It's Not War... might have been commercial successes, the fans have heard them plenty of times, now. I think it's time to mix the set list up a bit and throw in a few more surprises.
But that is a trivial moan about a gig that was full of energy, excitement and musical punch. The Manics are still relevant, still brash and ever-so-slightly OTT, still musically fantastic and, as far as I'm concerned, still the best band on the bloody planet. They get five out of five stars from me and they always will. Shh, I'm allowed to be biased, it's my blog. ;-)
If you get a chance to see them, go.
And if you've not had the chance to see the band live, don't fret; I made you a little vlog, so you can experience them for yourself:
Click, click, click, click, click. Click yourself over (to YouTube).
I'll end this blog with a few more pictures from the gig. Enjoy!