Manic Street Preachers
Monday 16th May
Royal Albert Hall, London
The Manic Street Preachers have gone back 20 years to celebrate their triple platinum selling game changing record 'Everything Must Go' that scored them their first commercial success, and the mood is one of some kind of homecoming. Gritted teeth ode to the working class 'A Design For Life' arrives straight after James Dean Bradfield plays the rest of the band onto the stage with 'Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier', rousing the crowd to their feet in an instant. Recorded after co-lyricist Richey Edwards' disappearance 21 years ago, the track is a hailstorm of working class rage and ambition; backed by archive footage of bloodied protestors. It’s as powerful now as it was then and sees the RAH – and many of boxes and stalls that climb the walls of the venue – swaying in unison, rugby shirts and feather boas alike.. And even though the night is mostly a celebration of the Manics’ second great period, the presence of their long-missing talented but tortured wordsmith is also keenly felt.
As Bradfield tears into a distorted guitar solo for the title track it’s clear the band will struggle to please everyone for the second half of the night, but they’re definitely going to do their utmost best. Powering through the centrepiece, gangly bassist Nicky Wire changes outfits (again) as the statesman like Bradfield, dressed like an accountant on a post work pub crawl these days, switches up guitars, bouncing around the stage with all the energy of a teenager, the pair are utterly irrepressible. But of course your eyes can never escape the scissor-kicking sass of Wire - not to mention his ever-sharp wit and banter. "That's the only reason I agreed to these gigs," he smiles, "I get three costume changes".
The rarely heard run-through of the mid-nineties album also reminds the audience of the other top-ten singles ‘Australia’ and ‘Kevin Carter’ .'The Girl Who Wanted To Be God' – is a lost disco-infused indie club classic and Bradfield’s acoustic 'Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky' is spine-tingling. It might be two decades old, but tonight 'Everything Must Go' in its entirety sounded youthful and exhilarating and these middle aged millionaires perform with absolute commitment. As Bradfield put it: “Call it Britpop, call it whatever the fuck you want – it was ours !!!"
Following a brief interval, the second part of the night offers the epic guitar anthems which have become their trademark with some rarities including a curveball which was a pleasing new cover of Scottish new wavers Fiction Factory’s glossy 80's one hit wonder ‘(Feels Like) Heaven’ which the crowd lap up. 'Your Love Alone' off 2007 album 'Send Away The Tigers' nods to Pink Floyd and The Who, along with their own track the barnstorming 'You Stole The Sun From My Heart', is a symbol of the band’s longevity and their talent at drawing in new fans from every generation; there are fathers and sons, mothers and daughters cheering side by side tonight. Naturally 'Motorcycle Emptiness' and its unquestionable greatness sounds all the more magnificent in a venue such as this, while the punky cheek of 'Nat West-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds' was probably never intended for the Royal Albert Hall when they debuted it in toilet venues back in 1991, but its prediction of the banking system bringing about the apocalypse sees its place more than earned...
While they decide against a rendition of their anthem supporting Wales for Euro 2016, there’s such a sporting element to the night; in the camaraderie on and off stage and the roars of the crowd as they drink in the energy the band are pouring out, entertainers as much as they are artists ("You probably bought this single from Woolworths", Wire quips ahead of 'You Stole The Sun From My Heart').
The mighty fist-clenching 'If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next' from the 1998 album 'This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours' is about as perfect a finale MSP could go for to close the evening, a cue for ticker tape to spread across the RAH, leaving the audience to filter back into the night knowing they had witnessed a national treasure. 20 years may have passed but ‘Everything Must Go’ is a record that has stood the test of time, by a band that will continue to do so without any problem..
Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier
A Design for Life
Everything Must Go
Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky
The Girl Who Wanted to Be God
Interiors (Song for Willem de Kooning)
No Surface All Feeling
Suicide Is Painless (Theme from MASH) (Acoustic)
Ocean Spray (Acoustic)
Walk Me to the Bridge
Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
You Stole the Sun From My Heart
Roses in the Hospital
Show Me the Wonder
(Feels Like) Heaven (Fiction Factory cover)
You Love Us
If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
Wrinkly The Silver