Manic Street Preachers / The Afternoons
Newport Centre, 21/08/08.

The Afternoons are already two songs into their set when we arrive. I briefly consider writing some sort of in-depth review of their set, but quickly decide it can be summed up in four words: "Like Ash, only shit."

And so to the Manics. Tonight's venue is packed dangerously full, with people standing in walkways and stairways, falling over each other to get nearer the band. This is as close to a hometown crowd as they're ever going to get, and when the polite applause for the support has dissipated and the house lights go down and the stage lights go up and the blistering opening riff of "Faster" kicks in… well, the rush is incredible.

Tonight's is very much a greatest hits set, and it's not the best performance I've ever seen them deliver - strong and energetic rather than world-bendingly immense - but the Manics' middle-of-the-road is still better than most other bands' best, and with all the love that's coming off the crowd it's impossible not to get sucked in. So "Your Love Alone…" and "A Design For Life" soar to the ceiling, "La Tristesse Durera" and "Ocean Spray" bring tears to the eyes, and gig highlight "You Love Us" still swaggers like the coolest kid in school, a whitelight burst of hate and hormones.

Pic : Dead Martyr

Another, unexpected, high point is their cover of Rihanna's "Umbrella." Rock covers of 'pop' songs tend to wander into drearily 'ironic' self-righteous piss-taking (see: Travis, Zebrahead, Chimp Bizkit, etc. etc. etc.) but this is clearly informed by love for the song, and in their hands it sounds monumental.

Just one quibble, really, and that's with the order of the setlist. Yes, it's refreshing hear "A Design For Life" mid-gig for once, but after an excoriating "Motown Junk," the closing salvo of "Autumnsong" and "Tolerate…" seems a little flat, a little… redundant. Go out on a bit more of a high next time, eh, boys?

Still thoroughly brilliant, though.

Manic Street Preachers: Who still cares? We do.

Jess Trash