Manic Street Preachers
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Tonight the Manics achieve something I’d never thought they would – they were boring. Now, its not the Manics fault, I grant them – they tried to excel, but the elements are against them. The venue is tiny and overcrowded to say the least. Vast portions of the venue are roped off, covered in cameras, boom mikes, and technicians. Sterile, like an operating theatre. And I feel sort of like I’m watching an experiment – the Manics up close at the most intimate UK show they’ve performed since they played the Marquee in 1993.
It isn’t helped by the fact that the Venue is festooned in symbols of Corporate sponsorship - the logo of that most conservative of music publications “Q“ is everywhere. Balloons proclaim the glory of Jack Daniels. Large portions of the audience seem to me to be the presspass uninterested liggers. A normal sign of the Manics fanbase – the frankly ludicrous glitterati – are here in isolated pockets of maybe 10 or 20 people in total. I know the Manics normally rehearse in a room bigger than this venue.
Frankly, secret gigs like this are a waste of time. The bands are sucking corporate willy and the fans are either outside or sat at home. The only good thing that happens all night is whilst I’m outside with my wife, the bands press agent asks if we want free tickets to beat the Tout Scum.
In a setting like this, faced with a largely curious, uninterested crowd its not surprising that the Manics are treating this more as an open rehearsal than a gig. Despite the fact that there are maybe 100 devout fans in the moshpit (average size, say, your front room) – the gig is flat. From the lyric - “Our hate is yours to feed upon” – its obvious that the Manics too feed off human interaction. Without one, there is not the other.
So what do we get? Staged for TV versions of the greatest hits, with only the mild excitement of - not played in 3 years – “From Despair To Where” and the “Enola Alone/Safe European Home” medley. Songs are dispatched quickly and efficiently, as if to get away from the realisation that this is elitist, corporate sponsored, and boring. The silence between songs is minimal, and whilst the venue offers the opportunity to see upclose some magical moments the big venues don’t – such as Nicky turning away to mouth the lyrics, James pulling his guitar lead out, Sean gurning for Wales during songs, and the band telepathically leaping around at exactly same time whilst not even knowing what they are doing – it’s all a bit dull frankly. Moments of genius, such as Motorcycle Emptiness, have a curiously not-bothered feel about them, not helped by the fact that the crowd is 10% Beer-lad-waiting-for-the-hits, 10%-glitterati, and 80% curious onlooker.
Some people may be jealous that they didn’t get to see the gig. You didn’t miss much and it’ll all be on TV anyway with a nice little “Q” logo in the corner. A sticker on Nicky’s bass reads : “Adverts Tell Lies. Being Cool Sucks. You Are A Product”.
Nothing else needs to be said.
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