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How Manics Aided Venue Rebirth - Dundee Evening Telegraph, 3rd September 2021

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It was the night the Manic Street Preachers performed a landmark gig that confirmed the rebirth of the Caird Hall as a major live music venue.

The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, David Bowie, Queen and Rod Stewart all performed at the famous venue in the glory days of the 1960s and 1970s.

In the 1980s and early ’90s bigger venues in Edinburgh and Glasgow became the go-to place for agents who were looking to get their acts booked in for Scottish dates.

Difficulties both in staging shows and selling tickets had dissuaded promoters from using the Caird Hall before things started to change for the better.

Dundee City Council improved facilities and worked closely with Geoff Ellis from DF Concerts, who brought Cast and the Charlatans to town in April 1997.

Both gigs sold out, which restored his faith in Dundee, and the early success was followed by gigs from the likes of Black Grape, Kula Shaker and Radiohead.

But it was the Manic Street Preachers who would prove that the venue’s days of playing host to low-key, passionless ‘warm-up’ shows were long gone.

Other bands of the decade may have made better music, played better gigs, influenced more people and sold more records, but nobody else in the ’90s could claim to have consistently held the attention as firmly as the Manic Street Preachers.

The band enjoyed, and endured, more twists, turns, ups and downs in the decade than just about all of their contemporaries combined.

After releasing their debut album, Generation Terrorists, in 1992 they went on to achieve stadium-sized success following the mysterious disappearance of the band’s lyrical genius and second guitarist, Richey Edwards, in 1995.

Throughout all this they created some of the most fiery, and certainly the most politicised, rock music of their times.

They performed at the Caird Hall on September 18 1998 after their fifth album, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, soared to the top of the charts.

Here was a Brit-winning, platinum-selling, known-to-housewives major band.

Minutes before the Manic Street Preachers took the stage at the Caird Hall the PA blasted out On A Plain from Nirvana’s Nevermind album.

The huge cheer which went up from the sell-out crowd underlined the similarity between the erstwhile leaders of grunge and the night’s headliners.

Both bands influenced the lives of a generation of teenagers in the early years of the decade and lost a member in difficult circumstances.

But that was where the similarity ended.

While Kurt Cobain’s death signalled the demise of Nirvana, the post-Richey Manics went on to greater things.

‘This was Guernica’

The Caird Hall gig would go down in city folklore.

The tracks the band played from the new album were those which owed more to their heavy metal history than the recent reflective vibe.

Only once did the pace let up during the 80-minute set.

The acoustic version of Enola/Alone by lead singer James Dean Bradfield was all but drowned out by the voices of the capacity audience.

The Courier review stated: “The Manics have clearly done a lot of growing up since the makeup-wearing self-abuse days, and there’s no doubt it’s for the good.

“The maturity displayed on their last two albums was once again in evidence at the Caird Hall as the trio wisely elected for a set-list which did not rely too heavily on new tracks from This Is My Truth.

“It was, however, the recent number one single If You Tolerate This… which kick-started the night and, followed by Australia and a few songs later Kevin Carter, set an electric pace.

“If the Welshmen have a reputation for hit-and-miss performances then this was Guernica.

“The raw, aggressive energy which was almost tangible in the crowd in the hour leading up to the band’s appearance became visible as rows of fans exploded to life.

“Manics followers, like those of Nirvana, have often been criticised for becoming too close to their heroes, too easily influenced by them.

“But this was where that became a positive, as the energy of a band and an audience enjoying themselves was bounced backwards and forwards between the two.”

Playing blind

James Dean Bradfield was energetic through the gig and he swept across the stage as they blasted through tracks like La Tristessa Durera and Motorcycle Emptiness.

When a banner flew up on to the stage from the kinetic crowd, bassist Nicky Wire put it over his head and carried on playing blind.

That was just before You Love Us, which, along with Design For Life, brought a predictable, encore-free end to a frenetic night.

One man who was in the crowd was Dundee-born DJ and broadcaster Jim Gellatly.

Jim previously interviewed the band in the early 1990s and he also broke the news of the Dundee gig date in his Evening Express music column.

Did this gig put the Caird Hall back on the music map?

“My first Caird Hall gigs were in 1985, when I went to see Howard Jones and Siouxsie and the Banshees as well as the Dundee For Africa benefit,” he said.

“The Siouxsie one was pretty memorable as she’d dislocated her knee and performed from a stool.

“I was delighted to have a front row ticket, only to discover that the first few rows had been removed.

“I was told I’d have to go to the back, but everybody rushed down to the front when the music started.

“The Radiohead gig was pretty special, but as a massive Manics fan it was brilliant to see them in a big venue in my home town.

“It’s a great hall for live music and it’s a shame it’s not utilised more.”

From Russia without love?

Music fan Graham Kennedy, who now lives in Suffolk, watched some of the classic Caird Hall gigs in the 1970s including Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple.

He became a big fan of the Manics when they broke on to the scene in the early ’90s but had left town by the time they played their famous gig in 1998.

Graham later realised the band weren’t as well known in Russia as they are in the UK!

“I’ve seen some great gigs at the Caird Hall and the Manics are a band I’d love to see,” said Graham.

“I’ve been buying their albums for years and I’m looking forward to their new one.

“Eleven years ago, when I was back working in Aberdeen on a new oil platform project, the Manics were playing the Music Hall but I couldn’t get a ticket.

“The Russian owners of our company wanted a meeting with some of us so I was asked to book a private room in a nice hotel, so I picked Malmaison.

“We arrived at the hotel around 10am and were walking in when three guys came out the other way to get into their limo.

“I smiled and nodded but couldn’t stop to speak to them – and ask if there were any spare tickets!

“I asked the glamorous translator: ‘Do you know who those guys are?’

She replied: ‘Those three scruffy guys?’

“I said: ‘Yes those international rock stars, the Manic Street Preachers’.

“She replied: ‘No, never heard of them’.”

The band were due to return to the scene of their Caird Hall triumph.

But, with the famous venue still functioning as a Covid vaccination centre, the September 29 concert has switched to the new venue in South Ward Road.

No surprise, either, that the gig is sold out.

After all, who wouldn’t fancy another trip down memory lane, some 23 years on?
How Manics Aided Venue Rebirth
Publication: Dundee Evening Telegraph
Date: Friday 3rd September 2021
Writer: Graeme Strachan

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