The Manic Street Preachers might be one of the hottest bands in the UK right now - but you’d never know it, judging from their latest visit to Hollywood, California for a headlining gig at the infamous Troubadour club.
The trio are still fairly anonymous in North America. although they're avidly followed by Anglophile music lovers who seek out anything the British music press deems worthy of space. That buzz has helped them sell a paltry 3,400 copies of their latest album, 'Everything Must Go', in the US. Their debut, 'Generation Terrorists', sold nearly three times that figure in '92. No wonder the Manics (allegedly) don't particularly care for America.
The Troubadour's walls gleam with platinum records and posters which remind us of the, er, glory days of LA rock, when real men wore lipstick and hairspray. Images of long-forgotten cock rock icons like Poison, Warrant and Great White loom overhead. At least Manics bassist Nicky Wire emerged onstage wearing blue eye-liner.
The band had just barely sold out the 500-capacity venue. Even so, The Troubadour didn't feel anywhere near as crammed as it did for recent shows by US punks the Voodoo Glow Skulls and indie rockers Pavement. But everyone there was a genuine, bona fide Manics fanatic, and many of us had attended their first LA show at the Whiskey four years ago, when Richey James was still with them and they wore leather trousers and rocked a bit. Tonight, frontman James Dean Bradfield wore army camouflage fatigues, which is always a fashion crime — unless you happen to be going into battle.
Initially, the vibe inside the club was cold and uninviting, and consequently the Manics started with a lacklustre whimper. It took them half their set to warm up, prompted by the increasingly adoring fans — particularly one boy down the front who knew all the words to every song.
New(ish) tracks, like 'Kevin Carter', 'Everything Must Go' and 'A Design For Life', were pure magic. The Manics now deliver a smooth, well-crafted performance - although technical problems forced Wire to give up on his bass entirely during one song.
At the end, none of the fans who'd been waiting years to see the Manics again were disappointed. And one industry insider was heard screaming, "They were so amazing!" for several hours afterwards
There is a place for the Manics in the US, but whether they have the patience to crack America is another question. So we'll probably have to wait four more years for another intimate gig. It‘ll be worth it...