Manic Street Preachers
My VitriolEdit this event
"We need you to sing for us... 'Ah... ahh... ahhh... AHHH!'" Thus spake James Dean Bradfield, frontman of the Manic Street Preachers, by way of introducing Masses Against The Classes. Love 'em or loathe 'em, everyone has an opinion on the band and if the new album alone wasn't enough to swing me back to the former, tonight certainly did the trick.
The night started with the much hyped My Vitriol. A definite improvement over the last time I saw them - Som actually spoke to the crowd, there were less feedback frenzy moments, etc. - I still find it hard to like them as much in a live context as I do on CD. The set was fairly predictable, too. Opening (as the album, Finelines, does) with Alpha Waves, they took the instrumental into Always: Your Way and other than jumbling up the running order a bit, practically followed the CD with just a few exclusions. Luckily for me, they played Infantile and Ode To The Red Queen. Favourites of mine, innit.
Pleasant, improving, listenable but still not a band I go to see as a headliner. Oh, and there was one cringe-worthy moment where Som slowly descended and lay on the floor at the climax of the song. Which would've been fine at the end of the set, but as it wasn't he had to get up again... bo!
And then the Manics. Although opinion is split as to whether or not the new material is any cop (I'm personally close to declaring it better than Everything Must Go), it shouldn't be denied that they're very much back on form live. As they strutted on stage - Nicky in a tennis skirt and a jacket with GIRLY in big letters, James in his military / professional bowler crossover and Sean in, err, stuff - the crowd went wild.
With a little assistance from keyboardist Nick Naysmith, the band launched into Found That Soul - one of their recent pair of singles and the first track on new disc Know Your Enemy. With plenty of banter in between songs (including a rather funny rant from Nicky regarding journalists who write for Time Out, "Go back to reviewing fking restaurants, cts!"), the band seemed completely at ease and cocky. Frequently teasing the crowd with Guns N' Roses riffs and the bassline to Archives of Pain.
The set was a pretty balanced mix of old and new tracks. Between me and my friend, we've managed to list 20 songs that they definitely played... and we think we're missing a few. I'll get onto that after going over some of the highlights for me... although the whole gig was a highlight if I'm being honest.
"Something old, something blue but never borrowed..." intoned James "... this is Motorcycle Emptiness." It's just one of those songs that has you screaming yourself hoarse, much like pretty much every song they played but it was very nice to hear...
... as was James' little solo spot. Taking centre stage with just an acoustic guitar, he first played a gorgeous version of Baby Elian - one of the finer tracks from Know Your Enemy. Stripped of it's New Order-esque drums, etc. it's by far one of their sweetest moments musically and tells the tale of Elian Gonzales - the small Cuban boy who was the subject of another USA vs. Cuba situation.
Swapping to a detuned acoustic signalled only one thing to myself and my obsessive friends... our wish would be granted. Before even a note was played, we stood chanting "This Is Yesterday! This Is Yesterday! This Is Yesterday!" to ourselves. This old number (from The Holy Bible) sounded beautiful.
As soon as the last notes faded, Nicky waltzed on with a revolting pink jacket and glittery, gold baseball cap and the band played a couple of numbers with Nicky on guitar (Miss Europa Disco Dancer) and even vocals (Wattsville Blues).
Before I witter on forever and ever, here're the 20 songs I remember... order completely random:
Found That Soul
This Is Yesterday
Miss Europa Disco Dancer
A Design For Life
Motown Junk (with the Sweet Child O' Mine riff as a teaser)
You Love Us
Masses Against The Classes
So Why So Sad
Let Robeson Sing
Freedom Of Speech Won't Feed My Children
La Tristesse Durera
If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
You Stole The Sun From My Heart
Having only seen them play live once before (at the totally abysmal V99), I don't really have much space for comparison but tonight was much more in keeping with the bootleg videos, reviews and praise of yesteryear. Nicky's (and James') comments were funny instead of dull, the crowd were a decent and mixed bunch and the band's relaxed, confident mood came through in the music. Spot on in every way.
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