Long live the Manics' almighty racket
The Holy Bible from start to finish?
Jeez, that's a bit much. . . or so you would think. Are the Manic Street Preachers touring one of their most acclaimed records for the sheer hell of it, or is there something bigger at play here? Definitely the latter, what with James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore celebrating the 20th anniversary of their darkest, most troubled masterpiece.
Indeed, The Holy Bible was the last album the Manics released before the disappearance of guitarist and lyricist Richey Edwards in 1995 (he was "presumed dead" in 2008). Bittersweet doesn't cover it.
They've made the effort - they always do. Is there such thing as a bad Manic Street Preachers show? Probably not, but with the band splitting their set in two this evening (one half for The Holy Bible, the other for the hits) the Manics remind us of how they went from angsty alt-rock soldiers to mid-nineties chart favourites, without ever losing their wondrous sense of melody and stagecraft.
The trio display a level of riotous exuberance, interest and sharpness not normally associated with middle-aged rock outfits. They still look the same. Gangly Nicky still dresses like a punk-rock sailor. James strikes all the right poses. Sean remains the beating heart of the dream unit. And, The Holy Bible sounds majestic, taking us through furious hard-rock outbursts (Revol, Faster) and harmonious, guitar pop (This is Yesterday, Die in the Summertime).
It's a tough album, but a phenomenal one too, and in James Dean Bradfield's exceptional fretwork (the man still cares about his craft, you know), we have a set built upon some of the greatest songs the Manics ever wrote. An almighty racket, for sure.
Nicky dedicates the set to Richey ("my favourite person of all time") and, after an hour, tells us they're going to take a break (he quite fancies some Skittles...and maybe even a massage). Ten minutes later, Bradfield returns, shirt and tie on, acoustic guitar wrapped around his frame. And we're off. . .again.
Padding things out with a couple of session players, the Manics swoop and dive through fabulous new cuts from current album Futurology (their best in years) and various flashes of glory from the singles vault (Motorcycle Emptiness, You Stole the Sun from My Heart, and the magnificent If You Tolerate This…).
Is there a better rock vocalist than James Dean Bradfield? We doubt it. And you can always rely on Nicky for a good laugh. The dude spent the afternoon Christmas shopping in Tower Records . . . but panicked when he couldn't even find the place to begin with (James had to tell him the store had moved). As always, A Design for Life closes us out. Smashing band, smashing tunes. Long live the Manics. HHHHH