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Manic Street Preachers: Newport Centre Picture Special - Plugged In, December 2010

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Title: Manic Street Preachers: Newport Centre Picture Special
Publication: Plugged In
Date: December 2010
Writer: Neil Collins

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Manic Street Preachers stormed through the Newport Centre with a stunning set spanning their entire career and proved they are as crucial to the 2,000 devotees in attendance as ever. Emerging under the stage lights to the majestic strings of Sliver by their beloved Echo & The Bunnymen, the band give a quick greeting before launching immediately into a frenzied version of You Love Us. And judging by the buoyant crowd's reaction it's obvious the Manics mean the world to the fans crammed into the sweaty confines of the venue. The song is a great choice as an opener and demonstrates that despite reaching middle age, the three-piece still possess the same anger and fire in their bellies as they always did. There is hardly a second to catch your breath as frontman James Dean Bradfield strums the opening chords to Your Love Alone Is Not Enough moments late, and maintains the heady momentum. The singer further endears himself to the army of support by remarking how nice it is to be home, and dedicates an immense version of Motorcycle Emptiness to the fans who came to see the band at the city's music venue, TJ's, way back in 1993. And it seems as if not a single day has passed since then with both Bradfield and beanpole bassist Nicky Wire perfectly pogoing and pirouetting around the stage throughout the timeless classic. The new stuff is also well received, including latest chart hit it's Not War Just The End Of Love, and three other tracks from Postcards From A You, Man -the highlight of which is Some Kind Of Nothingness, which is surely an ideal choice for the next single. There's certainly something for everyone in the setlist with plenty of old ones for the hardcore, glammed-up fans down the front (Roses In The Hospital, La Tristesse Durero and This Is Yesterday) and the hits for the casual listeners at the back (Everything Must Go and Tsunami). And though the band may not be used to playing such small surroundings in recent years, the intimate feel of the gig really offers you the chance to see them up close and personal. This often comes at the expense of the potential spectacle offered by larger venues - big screens and flashy lighting - but not this time. The stage set is simple but effective, featuring a glittery pink backdrop and a trio of glamorously muscled statuettes decked in feather boas and clutching guitars. And the band look equally attractive themselves. especially Wire who wears his best Bet Lynch leopard-skin coat before returning for the second half donning a green Libertines/Sgt Pepper-esque jacket, topped off with a sailor's hat. But the undisputed star of the show is Bradfield himself, and this is never more evident than in his solo acoustic spot mid-set. First he offers a beautiful note-perfect rendition of Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky, his voice cracking with emotion throughout. Then he has the entire audience eating out of the palm of his hand with a fist-pumping interpretation of You Stole The Sun From My Heart. His stage presence is eve, bit as commanding armed just with an acoustic guitar as when his bandmates are around him. It's not until Bradfield lets the crowd sing a line and then comes back in himself, that you realise what an astounding voice and range the titanic-lunged singer has. A venomous version of The Masses Against The Classes really brings out the trademark rasp in Bradfield's voice, but later he hits all the high notes on If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next. The sound of him delivering blistering guitar solos with shirt-sleeves rolled up (like on Faster) is equally awe-inspiring, whilst the silhouette of him riffing away on Ocean Spray as the light show goes into overdrive is also a lasting image. Just like any homecoming gig, there is a little extra emotion attached to this tour date. And it's touching that after all these years, you still get the sense that the band are friends first and foremost. Prolonged, tongue-in-cheek introductions of each band member are scattered throughout the show, but the most poignant moment is when Bradfield dedicates their early single Motown Junk to lost bandmate Richey Edwards - gone but never forgotten. Leaving the stage once again to the sound of Echo & The Bunnymen (The Killing Moon this time), the Manics prove they have always remained loyal to their roots and their influences. "We are the Manic Street Preachers, we came from Blackwood," said Bradfield before launching into the epic curtain-closer A Design for Life. The boys have gone a long way since those early days of playing locally, and what an incredible ride it's been.