Manic Street Preachers
Cambridge Corn Exchange, 12.4.05

I am, at root, a bit of a Manics Fan. They were the first band I fell in love with, who were about more to me than just the music; they were the band who set the stage for a life shaped by an obsession with rock'n'roll. Recently, however, I haven't kept the faith. Lifeblood didn't move me, Know Your Enemy smelt too strongly of harking back to lost soul, I gave away my copy of This is My Truth, Tell Me Yours. But despite it all, at the end of the day… they're still the Manics. They were the band responsible for The Holy Bible, one of the rawest, most thought provoking, challenging and true records ever made. They were one of the most intelligent, loud, provocative and angry bands ever, they were My Band. And they were playing my hometown, in a non-arena venue. How could I not go? So in a concession to the nailing of colours to the mast, I donned leopard print. In a concession to dress sense, I did not twin it with white jeans and Dunlop trainers. And then I went to see The Manic Street Preachers.

During the support slot from good-beat-but-no-bloody-tunes electro-rock dullards The Delays we mainly made poor jokes about Forever Delays and elbowed our way towards the front. A short discussion about the bonsai drummerhood of Sean Moore and a lot of giggling anticipation later, the lights went down and…

Live, they're still My Band. They're still My Manics. Yeah, so they've lost some of the rage and a lot of the energy. Yeah, so they don't quite rock the tight leopard-print and eyeliner look with the same panache. Yeah, they're older and have mellowed somewhat - but they're still The Manics. Sometimes, they did grate. Nicky Wire's habit of changing into something more glam during the second half of the set, in what could easily be seen as a smirking concession to the follies of youth, is a bit annoying. The fact that the moshpit suddenly doubled in size during You Stole The Sun From My Heart made me fear for the future of humanity. The newest stuff - inevitably - lacked bite.

Then there were the good bits. You Love Us, Stay Beautiful and Motown Junk are still three of the most life-affirming slabs of joyously defiant rage that anyone's ever written, and shouting along to the words at the top of your voice three rows from the front will always be utter magic. Having always been vexed that I was never going to hear most of the Holy Bible songs live because I'm too young and I wasn't there at the time, the opening sample for Of Walking Abortion was one of the most ecstatically welcome sounds I've ever heard. For a little while I was fifteen again and putting a borrowed copy of Generation Terrorists on the stereo for the first time, or bringing home my shiny new copy of The Holy Bible, pressing play and being blown away. I have little reason to wish my teenage years back, but for one night I was more than happy to relive a few select moments. Sometimes it's nice to forget that you've been disillusioned, to regain the unreserved joy and enthusiasm of now-broken obsessions for just a little while. In a live set, You Love Us still makes perfect, beautiful sense.