28/04/18 - Counteract - Birmingham Arena Review

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27/04/18 Birmingham Arena

Publication: Counteract
Date: Saturday 28th April 2018
Writer: Nick Owen

The band twirled and pogoed through a hit packed set, showering the audience with glitter and confetti, inspiring staggering levels of devotion.

Taking to the stage after a short film which references the artwork of their recently released album Resistance is Futile, the Manic Street Preachers open by launching furiously into recent single ‘International Blue’. Thus begins a fascinating lesson in how a band can curate a set that approximates the scope of a 32 year career, during which they have released 13 studio albums.

At this point in their career, producing a set that can please everybody feels like an impossible task, a problem which, over the course of tonight’s set is publicly wrestled to the ground before being sat on.

To be specific the problem is this…Whilst the The Manic Street Preachers are by no means a heritage act, they are a group which inspire levels of die hard devotion amongst the fringe elements of their fan base, many of whom will have strong opinions on the songs that NEED to be played. Set against this back drop, it cannot be easy to keep things fresh. Despite the weight of expectations, the Manic Street Preachers deliver on almost every perceivable level.

Their older material is translated to meet the needs of an expanded 6 piece line up whilst still maintaining its face shredding integrity, the guitar solo from ‘You Love Us’ is so intense if could strip paint.

A mid-set acoustic segment sees fan favourites lovingly repurposed as alternative takes from a parallel dimension. ‘From Despair to Where’ incorporates flamenco guitar patterns and fragments of Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’. ‘Faster’, a standout track from their furious 1994 masterpiece The Holy Bible is transformed into the worlds weirdest campfire sing along.

They close with a stately performance of ‘A Design For Life’. There are confetti Cannons. Everyone leaves with glitter in their hair. Everyone leaves satisfied. There aren’t many bands with such sprawling careers that can say that.