Punchy singalong anthems and these Welsh almost 50 yr olds show the young pretenders how it’s done.
The first time I saw the Manic Street Preachers was at the Adelphi in Hull back in 1991, at the time they raced through their soon to be released debut double album in 70mph post punk fashion, the sound was abysmal but that didn’t matter as they were the band of their time, fashionably brash and didn’t give a damn about what they said, or who they said it to. Nicky Wire was a skinny lanky pogoing bass player with a penchant for wearing a dress if he felt like it, a few years later I saw him stand on the Other stage at Glastonbury saying “I’d build a bypass around this sh*thole”. James Dean Bradfield used to wear cast off Rod Stewart outfits, all leopard skin shirts and white trousers, unless he donned a balaclava and military shirts for PCP etc. Always politically charged, spitting fire in their lyrics and the music was.
So, has the heat finally been removed from their pot, the fire extinguished from the Welsh Dragon? Well…Yes, a bit, but let’s face it they are all turning 50 years old next year, so we can allow a bit of extra body fat, lethargy and sentiment, can’t we? Even Johnny Rotten needs glasses and a music stand to shout his poetry when he fronts PIL these days.
At the First Direct Arena in Leeds tonight we have lots of empty seats and space in the limited standing area, but those that attended got a big 24 song setlist to chew through, and it contained plenty of new material too from their latest album ‘Resistance is Futile’. The promotion of that album featured a photograph that had the band looking like middle-aged accountants in crumpled suits and it got panned by everyone on social media. However, what the people of Leeds Arena do know is that this band have NEVER played a bad gig, their professionalism runs throughout, musicians now first rather than the angsty punk poets of the past. They have a back catalogue that many current bands would happily trade their 2nd guitarist for, and they don’t really need to release anything new, as their greatest hits alone would already have them carried out on the shoulders of this crowd at the end of the night.
Opening with the single ‘International Blue’ from the album, which has the first line of “Will you lead us to an empty room”, well it isn’t empty, but I wouldn’t say it was packed out – the band recently described this opening number as the sister song to ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’, and so they followed it with exactly that.
A setlist packed with strategically placed big tunes every 2 or 3 – ‘Your Love Alone is Not Enough’, ‘You Stole the Sun From My Heart’ and ‘Everything Must Go’, still stand out tracks at any concert hall or arena in the UK, and the band have enough spirit and venom to still make them feel like huge anthems. The ‘If You Tolerate This’ guitar break midsong is still as good as it has ever been.
A short set of solo James Dean Bradfield numbers with ‘Faster’ and an emotional tribute to Leeds United and Welsh Footballer Gary Speed followed with ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ before a full band killer one-two of ‘Stay Beautiful’ and ‘You Love Us’.
An abundance of energy, Wire still able to pull a split jump without fear of dislocating his hip, and James Dean Bradfield manages to skip around the stage whilst playing some superb guitar. There is still a noticeable gap on the left of the stage but most of the casual fans tonight probably don’t even know the history of Richie Edwards.
Classic songs will always outweigh the new for any band older than 10 years, and tonight they had the right balance of both, it left the ultimate Manics song to send us back out into the night ‘A Design for Life’ complete with confetti canons discharging paper over those left standing near the front.
They might not have fully sold out in ticket sales tonight, but they continue to deliver punch after punch in a fully competent solid live performance, leaving with that whistling noise in your ears and a hoarse rasp in your voice, you know it’s been a great night of singalong anthems.