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Manics Bring Cheer To Streets Full Of Despair - The Nation, 24th April 1994

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Title: Manics Bring Cheer To Streets Full Of Despair
Publication: The Nation
Date: Sunday 24th April 1994
Writer: Michael Rivers


Step aside prophets of yesteryear and contemporary television evangelist, there's a new set of messengers on the scene and their message is just what the masses want to hear.

At least that was the case this past weekend during a two-night exclusive engagement by the Manic Street Preachers here in the City of Angels. Manic is what they preach and that's what they got from their adulatory fans during blistering performances Friday and Saturday evenings at MBK Hall

Playing to near-capacity crowds – about 3,500 on Friday and more than 4,000 on Saturday, according to concert organizers - the four-man band from a small South Wales village blazed their way through an 80-minute set that nearly brought the house down - literally.

Even before Saturday's gig got started, MBK security barred the entry to the festival "seating" area because of the overwhelming response by the city's fans to the current archbishops of alternative rock. Late-comers holding floor tickets were forced to swallow their chagrin and take up positions in the nether regions of the tiered seating area.

As the 7.30 pm showtime slipped by, the hall's air of palpable anticipation became almost stifling, the ions in the air almost electrically charged by the energy of expectation that created a fuse just waiting to be lit. But 20 minutes later, when James Dean Bradfield, Richey James, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore materialized from the dry-ice fog blanketing the stage, they didn't just light a fire - they ignited an inferno that, had it been a genuine blaze, would have made Australia's bushfires earlier this year look like a flickering firefly.

Before the Manics had even launched into their second track of the night, "From Despair to Where" off their Gold Against the Soul album, the floor had transformed itself into a heaving, roiling expanse of flesh and flailing arms. From a distance the scene resembled a flattened blob (of filmdom fame) with tentacles, writhing in rhythm as the mist filtered off the stage and wreathed its way eerily through the hall. The bouncing bodies produced tremors in the floor and walls that probably blanched more than one fade.

But for once, musical artists in Bangkok did not have to exhort their fans to sing along as the room responded with one voice, crying out in seeming protest at the genuine despair the grid-locked, smog-ridden streets of the city is well on its way to giving birth to. It’s almost as if Bangkok had provided the inspiration for lyrics such as these:

Outside open-mouthed crowds
Pass each other as if they're drugged
Down pale corridors of pale routine
The weak kick like straw
Till the world means less and less...

Following "Despair", with arms and elbows stroking like well-oiled pistons, lead guitarist and' vocalist Bradfield and rhythm guitarist James took their fans on a galvanizing tour through such past hit singles as "Motorcycle Emptiness". "Love's Sweet Exile" and "Little Baby Nothing" off their debut Generation Terrorists and "La Tristesse Durera", "Life Becoming a Landslide" and "Drug Drug Druggy" off Gold.

Not to be outdone by his band-mates, lanky-limbed bassist Wire cavorted about the stage looking for all the world like a disjointed Scarecrow of Oz gone mad as the Manics gave the audience a sneak preview of the first singles off their album due out in September with "Faster" and ' "PCP". The singles, given equal A-side billing, should hit record stores in May.

Moore's drumming provided a strong counterpoint to the unpolished yet charged melodies being churned out by his colleagues. Of course, a Manics gig wouldn't be a Manics gig without at least one cross-dressing episode -- an antic for which they're well-known — and they didn't disappoint. After a brief lull in the middle of the performance in which everyone but Bradfield left the stage while he performed a couple of acoustic solos, including a cover of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head", Wire reappeared at his post looking like the Scarecrow in drag, dressed in a floral-print summer smock.

The show wrapped up in an unusual way — without an encore. As James said at a press conference earlier in the week, the band never does encores. "There's no point in doing encores if nobody wants to listen."

In this case, they would have been wise to make an exception. After all, the Land of Smiles was the only stop on this, the Manics' "From Despair to Bangkok" mini-tour, and the fans here unquestionably wanted to listen.