I knew it was going to be a night of conflict, and I was prepared. I’m a life-long Manic Street Preachers fan and my preferences lie pretty much entirely in their first 4 albums, so the prospect of The Holy Bible being played live in full was damn near impossible to resist. Even at £35 a ticket, which was an irony not lost on the queue for the toilets (“this cost me a tenner in ‘94”), the announcement of this run of shows to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the now-iconic third LP from the Welsh rockers was as surprising as it was unexpected.
“The minute we do it, it’d kind of feel like that’s it – we’re irrelevant now,” said Nicky Wire earlier this year. But so what? 25 years in to a career that has seen them give not one solitary fuck about what anyone thinks; compromising nothing, and proving that even now in an age where people won’t spend the cost of a latte on a record that might change their life, you really can succeed by doing things the old fashioned way – they can play what they want, when they want and the cost of entry is frankly irrelevant. We’re all here aren’t we? And the Manics deserve it, they’ve earned it.
However all of this is forgotten immediately on stepping foot in the appropriately church-like surroundings of Manchester’s Albert Hall. We are here to worship after all. Camouflage netting covers the whole stage and back drop. Out they come, Nicky & Sean in the same camo gear they donned 20 years previously, and James Dean Bradfield in full military sailor uniform. The opening “You can buy her this one, this one here, this one here…everything is for sale” voiceover crackles through the PA, the lights dim and the sold out audience, in which I’m wedged like a sheep in a cattle wagon starts swaying, fists-in-the-air style, lets-go-mental bonkers.
The trio tear through Yes, Ifwhiteamerciatoldthetruthforonedayitsworldwouldfallapart, Of Walking Abortion, She Is Suffering and Archives of Pain like it’s the first time they’ve played the songs, and despite their 20 year age, each one is more relevant today than back then. Bradfield’s guitar playing reminds us what an awesome axe-man he really is, especially when it’s given room to shine on tracks like This Is Yesterday and 4st 7lb. Fan favourites Faster and PCP are first-half highlights, and in Wire’s brief exchange with the crowd he explains just what it means to them to perform the album in full, before Bradfield dedicates a solemn The Intense Humming Of Evil to “the genius of Mr Richie James Edwards.”
After a 10 minute break, they’re back, as a five piece. James has swapped his sailor outfit for a smart black suit and tie, whilst Wire is back on stage in full Muammar Gaddafi-style marine officer uniform and matching cap. Why not eh? It’s not so much a greatest hits set, but they do manage to pack in If You Tolerate This, Motorcycle Emptiness and a very welcome ending of You Love Us and A Design For Life. A quick verse-chorus of Wham’s Last Christmas from James (another relic from their 90’s Christmas tours) and we’re done. I’m leaving feeling satisfied that I saw what I wanted to – these guys who I’ve been listening to for most of my life still mean it, and when all’s said and done, that really is all that matters. I’m just disappointed they didn’t do the same tour for the Generation Terrorists 20th anniversary in 2012. There’s always the 25th I suppose…
– Adam Lewis
Venue: Manchester Albert Hall
Support Band: N/A