Manic Street Preachers
Hammersmith Working Men’s Club

Before I say anything, I think I should explain something here. More than any other band on the planet ever, the band that has made me the person who I am from a music point of view is without a doubt Manic Street Preachers. True, some of their albums may seem a bit lacklustre in certain respects. But everyone has a favourite Manics album and everyone has a least favourite Manics album. But most importantly everyone has something to say about every Manics album. Yes, even Lifeblood. Over a decade ago a friend of mine and me were discussing the then upcoming Millennium gig at the stadium in Cardiff. One of the best things that came out of that conversation was the following:

The Manics are not just a band. They are a lifestyle choice.

I still believe that.

The best things in life are free. It’s true. Janet Jackson and Luther Vandross told me this a long, long time ago. So getting home from work I check my email account expecting the usual mail outs about how I can consolidate all my monthly debts into one easily manageable monthly repayment or whatever shit Amazon is trying to flog to me this week, but there is a surprise. It’s from some chap at Sony telling me that, remember that competition you entered the other week to see a secret Manics gig, well fella, you’ve only gone and won a bloody pair of tickets. At this point I am jumping around the room but still thinking that this must be some elaborate Jeremy Beadle hoax and it will all end in tears. Thankfully I was wrong.

With very short notice I manage to get a friend to go along with me. “I’m still not sure if we’re going to get in, I have no idea where this place is” etc. I am full of doubts. The venue is basically a shed in the real sense. It’s teeny tiny. The chap on the door asks my name, I tell him and with every page that he flips over on his clipboard my hope dwindles further. Where is Beadle? But no, there I am right at the end and he waves us in. I almost do a sex wee.

So already I am pretty much the happiest person in the world. But it gets better. We go to the bar. No cash needed here sir. Oh really? Yep, it’s a free bar (well, not all night, but for the majority of it). By now I really do need to change my pants. The venue is decked out with strings of light bulbs running from the back to the stage. It’s all incredibly intimate. I swear I saw Paul McKenna at one point although that was as far as my possibly fictitious celeb spotting went.

Part one


A four-piece orchestra take to an incey bit of space stage left. And then the band arrives onstage with two back up musicians. They launch straight into new single This Isn’t War… but it doesn’t go quite as planned. One restart later though and they are firing on all cylinders. I think pretty much everyone in attendance has got cameras out filming this. Then it’s straight into You Love Alone… followed by Everything Must Go*. Another new one called The Descent follows which the intro reminded me of another song that I don’t recall at the moment but upon hearing the album I am sure will come back to me. Motorcycle Emptiness tries to begin. But doesn’t (surely if there is one song they have played more than any other, it must be Motorcycle?) but, again, after a restart, it is superb. Quite possibly the most blisteringly shit hot live performance of Motown Junk follows. It was quite amusing to see us at the front kicking up a shitstorm but when I turned around the journo’s at the back were all checking their mobiles. I still find it incredible that this song still makes so much sense as part of the Manics package. It’s still the song that defines the whole concept of the band. Even more so than You Love Us which arrives after (again on the first attempt aborted) Kevin Carter. First cigarette break is had during If You Tolerate This…

Part two

Well crikey, we arrive back just in time for Faster. By now I have given up any consideration for my pants and just tied a knot in it. This was incredible. To be fair, it may have been the free bar that helped but I haven’t heard James put as much into this song since, well, ever. Jackie Collins arrives onstage next. She is exquisite and short and a lovely little reminder of JFPL. But, well, here’s where I am going to become a bit critical (you can’t, you can’t! it was free! And it’s the Manics!) But, album title song Postcard From A Young Man comes next. And well, it’s alright. It’s fine. It’s nice enough. But when it finishes, do I remember it? Nope. Not a good sign. We’ll see when the album comes out. And then, in summary we get Autumnsong and another completely forgettable new one called Some Kind Of Nothingness. And then A Design For Life. Of course. Which, as ever, brings a tear to my eye as I know that “This. Is. The. End”.

James makes his apologies for all the false starts to songs and promises that they’ll be better for the tour (Hurrah!). So on first impression, new album wise, I’m still not sold. I really hope it’s good. They’ve kind of been on a roll since the past/present/future tour (Wires album was a bit dodgy) so lets hope it’s still a cracker. Regardless I shall be seeing them in Cambridge and I know I will fucking love it. After all, it’s the Manics. And on a school night too damn it. And that ladies and gentlemen is reason enough.

Richard Bull, pix from Gigwise, more here

* (At which point even as much as I love the Manics had to say, “Oh fuck, again?”)