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02/05/18 - Secret Meeting - Llandudno Venue Cymru Arena Review

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01/05/18 Llandudno Venue Cymru Arena

Publication: Secret Meeting
Date: Wednesday 2nd May 2018
Writer: Phil Scarisbrick

After touring for close to 30 years, it would be easy for any artist to slip into the category of ‘nostalgia act’. The Manics have taken to the road in recent years for the tried and tired concept of anniversary shows (for The Holy Bible and Everything Must Go respectively). But back with their wonderful new album, Resistance Is Futile, they took to the stage last night (1st May) at Llandudno’s Venue Cymru, determined to make their new music the centre piece of their show. Front man James Dean Bradfield asserted – “It’s great to have a new record to play for you, otherwise you’re just looking backwards.”

Beforehand, noughties Scouse-psych band The Coral took to the stage. The release of new record, Move Through The Dawn, drew anticipation but unfortunately, the only new song was Kasabian-by-numbers single Sweet Release. Old favourites such as Secret Kiss, Pass It On and Bill McCai had the Welsh audience in fine voice before the inevitable set-closer Dreaming Of You caused a mini party in the seaside venue. Always an exciting live band, tonight they felt like they were in autopilot and sound issues aside, the usual energy Coral fans of old had come to expect was MIA.

After a short break, the house lights went down and a short film played which featured a Japanese woman dressed in a similar samurai outfit, adorning the 19th century warrior featured on Resistance is Futile‘s artwork. Opening track, International Blue feels like an instant classic that will be a set mainstay for years to come. The three-pronged guitars give the sound a powerful edge that only increases the song’s impact. Following up with fan favourite Motorcycle Emptiness, Bradfield steps back to allow the audience to take the chorus. Videos of the band in their early 20s acts as a backdrop for what feels like a communion.

Everything Must Go’s closer All Surface, No Feeling is one of the band’s most underrated tracks. Here, the devoted audience sing along with glee before the Rock’n’Roll Star-style, waltzy outro adds a new dimension to this dynamic stomp. Other fan favourites such as Your Love Alone Is Not Enough, You Stole The Sun From My Heart and number one single The Masses Against The Classes litter the set causing rapturous sing-along moments and a cacophony of pogoing.

Having such a vast back catalogue to pick from allows the Manics to slip in some treats for the real connoisseurs. Despite being the title track of their first greatest hits album, Forever Delayed has only ever been officially released on B-sides and rarities double album, Lipstick Traces. Here it packs a punch, giving way to one-off single There By The Grace Of God. Both synth-heavy, airy numbers add a feeling of seriousness to the party atmosphere, while demonstrating the often underappreciated eclectic range the band have. The most obscure moment of the night is Kevin Carter B-side: Horses Under Starlight – a trumpet-drenched, largely instrumental track that fits somewhere between Groove Armada’s At The River and Andy Williams territory.

Despite dipping into the back catalogue, the new songs feel perfectly at home. Bradfield-penned Distant Colours feels fresh yet urgent. The Elton John-style duet Dylan & Catilin and Liverpool Revisited are able to be recited verbatim by the audience. Hold Me Like A Heaven felt underwhelming on the record but live it really comes to life. But, the highlight of the new tracks was People Give In – an instant anthem that is utterly joyous, instigating the same reaction the old favourites do.

Following a powerful If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next (complete with explosive streamers), James Dean Bradfield stands alone on stage. Acoustic versions of Richey Edwards-penned Faster and From Despair To Where act as the perfect tribute to their long-missing brother-in-arms, before the band returns for a frenetic You Love Us.

Traditional set closer A Design For Life produces the ecstasy that it always does. The Phil Spector meets Ennio Morricone wall of sound brings the evening to a close, once again showering the audience with metallic streamers. As I left the venue, I observed a myriad of t-shirts featuring Morrissey, Ryan Adams, Sisters Of Mercy, Larry David, Biffy Clyro, Blur, my own Joe Strummer garment and, of course, the Manics themselves. One thing all had in common though was the grin on their faces. Despite approaching their 50s, the Manics still feel important. Their back catalogue may be almost unrivalled by their peers, but their new music feels vital. So though they may be in their fourth decade as a band, label them a nostalgia act at your peril.