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05/05/18 - The Upcoming - London Wembley SSE Arena Review

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04/05/18 London Wembley SSE Arena

Publication: The Upcoming
Date: Saturday 5th May 2018
Writer: Daniel Amir

As anticipation builds, one quote graces the stage at Wembley: “Life is all memory.” For a band that has stayed active and creative for as long as the Manic Street Preachers have, critics might say this is a fitting epitaph. At Wembley, they decidedly refute this. Whether smashing out hits like Little Baby Nothing and If You Tolerate This Your Chidlren Will Be Next, or acoustically serenading the crowd with Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, the Manics remain powerful, energetic. As the guitar wails out the iconic riff of Motorcycle Emptiness, the three-piece have all the zestful excitement of youth about them (even in middle age).

James Dean Bradfield is as piercingly hot-blooded as ever, with a strong voice and stronger opinions. This is still rock and roll, after all, and the Manics succeed in upholding their characteristic reputation. Aggro, swearing, shouting are all still on the menu, secured against the unmistakable sound that has defined the Welsh rockers for a generation. The performance doesn’t feel like it’s harking back to a distant prime; the band’s twisting tale goes on seamlessly.

The trio has new things to say, too. Their latest album Resistance Is Futile is a little tamer, poppier. Still, it hit number two in the UK album charts. Singles like International Blue still get heads banging. Hold Me Like a Heaven and Distant Colours absolutely bear the mark of their creators – with a twist. They are somehow gentler, more melodic, in the kind of way that will still have you stomping your feet for the duration of the concert.

There may be more balding heads in the Manics’ audiences than there were 30-odd years ago, but people aren’t just showing up for the sake of nostalgia. The concert ends with a real bang on A Design for Life, yet another song that comes out like an anthem. This is a band that continues to produce, evolve, and take its devoted following with it. Not all artists succeed in achieving this feat, but the Manics and their fans have clearly stood the test of time.