Manic Street Preachers
As readers of this blog know, one of my favorite rock bands is a group called Manic Street Preachers. Theyre huge in the UK and most the rest of the world, but not so much in the U.S.
As a result, they dont play here very often. In fact, its been 10 years since the last time they ventured to the States to play gigs.
That is until this week.
Riding on a wave of success and critical acclaim for their most recent album titled Journal for Plague Lovers, this three piece band from Wales at long last decided it was time to come back to the USA and play some shows.
And where did the band pick to play their first US show in a decade? Yep, Seattle.
And so it was that last Monday Sept. 21 my buddy Paul and I went to see the band at Neumos on Capital Hill.
Naturally, our expectations were high and, I have to say, they were exceeded as the band threw down an exciting, impassioned and extremely entertaining set all in a very small venue where you could get right up close. For those of you unfamiliar with the Manic Street Preachers sound, its rock and roll with the standard set up of guitar, bass, drum and a few effects. The bands style has ranged from raging but melodic punk, epic and soaring rock, chilled art rock and a bunch of sounds in between...all with intelligent and thought provoking lyrics.
The other thing to know is that in their early years, the band had four members. In early 1995, their primary lyric writer and second guitarist, Richey Edwards, went missing. Hes never been found and is presumed dead - leaving surviving members James Dean Bradfield (vocals, guitar), Nicky Wire (bass, vocals) and Sean Moore (drums) to carry on. Journal for Plague lovers is the Manics ninth studio album and its first featuring all-Richey lyrics since that time.
But anyway, back to the show. Our evening started out as Paul and I walked past the venue and heard the band running through the sound check. As the song Peeled Apples boomed out beyond the walls of Neumos, we knew we were in for a good show.
Meeting James Dean Bradfield
Pleased as punch to have met the lead singer for one of our favorite bands, Paul and I did then make it to the bar right next to Neumos. As we passed through the door we saw James again this time snared by a few guys asking him to sign a bunch of records and other Manics items. In hindsight, Im really glad I didnt do that to him as that action tends to simply come across to the performer as this is just about me getting something from you rather than any other type of conversation you could have.
The Venue and Vibe
By my assessment, Neumos was more three-quarters full. Not sold out. While it was tightly packed near the stage, toward the back there was plenty of room. This must be a bit strange for the band because everywhere else in the world they play its in big stadiums or arenas and thats why this was an even more special gig. Great band, small venue, cheap ticket.
The crowd seemed to be people age 40 and under with the majority looking to be in their late 20s, early 30s and a few of us geezers right at the 40 mark. As you might expect, the crowd was also majority male but not dominantly.
The band quickly ripped into one of their older but best songs, Motorcycle Emptiness. The full set list is below:
The sound system they set up was perhaps the best Ive heard at Neumos as all instruments and vocals were clear and dialed in.
I was impressed with the diversity of the songs from their back-catalogue and that they played some of the best stuff off their latest album. For my expectations, this set really delivered with my favorites being Jackie Collins Existential Question Time, Peeled Apples and Faster. However, all songs were great. I like that they sprinkled in a few surprises like their cover of Take the Skinheads Bowling and the ode to singer/actor/athlete/activist Paul Robeson called Let Robeson Sing. I assume the later was a cheeky dig at the U.S. But, its a good song with intelligent lyrics. I liked that it was included.
In terms of performance, I have just say this it was one of the best shows Ive ever seen. I cannot underscore this enough. This show had it all - talent aplenty, great songs, engaged, passionate and energy to burn. This band was by my observation really glad to be there and put on a great performance. James Dean Bradfield in particular delivered the goods with his powerful vocals, jumping around, spinning around and generally kicking ass. I was also glad that at one point near the beginning of the show, Bradfield announced that it had been 10 years since theyd been in Seattle and that the last time they played here the venue was called Aero-Smith or something like that. I had to laugh. I assumed he was going on our little exchange on the street at least thats what Ill go ahead and believe.
Nicky Wire did something that I noticed in the show 10 years ago he played almost the entire set with his eyes closed. Im not sure if thats a regular thing with him or if the small venue was the reason. But, he also jumped around and did his scissor kicks a few times and had a few words for the audience.
Details for Fans
Ears ringing, smiles on our faces and full of the knowledge that wed just seen a truly unlikely but spectacular show we headed home.