Monday, 8 November 2010

Manic Street Preachers - Cambridge Corn Exchange 01/11/10

My earliest awareness of the Manic Street Preachers came while behind the counter in Our Price, where I promptly dismissed them as indie fodder. A friend (indeed the one who first coined the phrase Glamrock Aftershock) returned from seeing the Throbs at the Marquee, and the support band was Blackwood’s finest. This was a surprise to me given my ill-informed dismissal and so I took the opportunity to put on their then current single, Motown Junk. My opinion changed immediately and was further enhanced by its follow-up, the original recording of You Love Us, complete with the Lust For Life-based closing refrain.

Last week I saw the band for the first time since they played at an anti-fascism rally in south London in 1994. I also saw them three times in 1992, at two now defunct venues, the Astoria and the Kilburn National, and at the Town & Country Club, now the Forum. I had collected every release through the first two albums (bar Suicide Alley) and around the time of The Holy Bible my interest waned slightly. Other than a few singles (A Design For Life, If You Tolerate This and Masses Against The Classes) they rarely troubled my collection for the rest of the decade. This was not directly linked to the disappearance of Richey Edwards, although I was less than enamoured with the much straighter rock on parts of Everything Must Go (which was released during a later stint at Our Price and was played to death in-store) and which was explored further on This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours.

Opening with the afore-mentioned You Love Us immediately brought home one very specific point - that here was a band with a big enough back catalogue to toss away such a big song so early on (something I last recall being undertaken by AC/DC kicking off proceedings with You Shook Me All Night Long). This was followed by the 2007 #2 hit Your Love Alone Is Not Enough before James Dean Bradfield returned to the band's early days with a reference to their first Cambridge show at the Junction and an airing of the anthemic Motorcycle Emptiness.

Such nods to the past were a common theme, with the band in good spirits and keen to speak about their long-standing friendships (such as Bradfield acknowledging how Nicky Wire had been responsible for his haircuts and stylings when growing up, and later returned by Wire when describing Bradfield as his personal guitar hero). Faster was prefixed with a dedication to Richey Edwards - the same album's PCP had been requested but Bradfield, overcoming a recent bout of laryngitis, made it clear that he hadn't taken sufficient steroids to manage the requisite vocals. During an interlude that saw him play one song on his own, Wire joked that Bradfield was taking so many steroids that their dressing room resembled that of the Russian Olympics squad in the 1970s.

The remainder of their set drew from across their near-20 year career, with Motown Junk typically making its appearance late on before closing with A Design For Life, with its huge chorus so famously mis-appropriated by the drinking masses. And as in 1992, no encores. Not that one was required. This was a phenomenal gig that has predictably driven me back to see and properly hear exactly what I missed from 1996 onwards.

Previous posts:
Manic Street Preachers - Journal For Plague Lovers
Manic Street Preachers - Generation Terrorists


Michael said...

Someday I'd like to see this band play. But it's hard enough for them to get their records released over here (Postcards still doesn't have a US release), let alone tour. Someday, maybe...

Mark_E_Moon said...

Ah the Manics, my entry point to them was seeing them play "Motown Junk" on Snub TV in early 1991, I was pretty hooked from that point onwards, bought said single, bought "New Art Riot" on 12" and bought everything they released from that point until The Holy Bible (although I could never find a copy of "Suicide Alley").

Incredible to think they've been around for 20 odd years now after all the promises to release one album and split up, I still listen to Generation Terrorists (which would've made a superb single album but is still flawed classic), Gold Against The Soul and Holy Bible. I thought 2009's "Journal For Plague Lovers" was a real return to form for them with Richey's previously unused lyrics.

James is still a fine vocalist and a great guitarist, I have to confess to only ever seeing them play once (back in 1994 time at an Anti-Nazi League Rally in London).