Manic Street Preachers’ truths laid bare 20 years on in show of two halves – LIVE REVIEW
It is the autumn of 1998.
Welsh rockers the Manic Street Preachers are arguably at their peak, having enjoyed massive critical acclaim and success with fourth album Everything Must Go.
Their fifth album, the follow up This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours is also a big-seller, going straight to number one and shifting 136,000 copies and spawning the hit singles If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next and You Stole The Sun From My Heart.
Fast forward 20 years.
By now, the group have put out their 13th album, 2018’s Resistance Is Futile, still to massive acclaim, but the BRIT awards, number one singles and stadium dates are now sadly a thing of the past.
But to mark the TIMTTMY’s 20th anniversary, like with previous album releases, the Manics are back out on the road, revisiting their back catalogue and this, the first of two dates at Manchester's O2 Ritz is a chance to hear it played in full.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Manics. I always have and always will.
I’ve kept on listening long after others have fallen by the wayside and enjoyed often derided albums (Lifeblood anyone?) and the usual taunts about what others view as depressing, miserable music about alienation, despair and suicide.
There’s no getting away from it, that while This Is My Truth is an excellent album, its not exactly what you’d call upbeat.
The late 90s found the group in a more melancholy and melodic mood than the punked-up guitar laden thrashes of before.
So its a brave decision to take this album on the road in full.
While hits such as The Everlasting, Tsunami and the previously mentioned You Stole The Sun From My Heart get the crowd heartily singing along, tracks such as My Little Empire, I’m Not Working and Be Natural while immaculately delivered, struggle to lift the spirits.
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The sombre mood is perhaps understandable – the entire set is devoted to the group’s lighting man whose funeral had taken place earlier the same day.
By the time album closer the Hillsborough disaster referencing S.Y.M.M.comes round, its clear a spark is needed and that comes in the shape If You Tolerate This, plucked from its actual place on the album’s running order and tagged on the end to ensure the mood lifts.
For the second part of the set, its an altogether different affair.
Even lead singer James Dean Bradfield seems lifted at being freed from the ponderous TIMTTMY set announcing, “after that, we can move around a bit, you know?”
There’s a definite gear change as Bradfield and self-proclaimed ‘millionaire rockstar’ Nicky Wire up the tempo with much loved favourites such as Motorcycle Emptiness, Your Love Alone Is Not Enough and recent hit International Blue.
There’s still time for moments of quieter contemplation with the truly gorgeous Solitude Sometimes Is before a final gear shift with No Surface All Feeling and erstwhile set finale A Design For Life, which still endures as one of the Manics’ finest moments and ensures a throaty singalong from the sweaty devotees.
Very much a concert of two halves, anyone expecting a greatest hits, power pop set would probably have been left staring into their beer during the first part of the set.
This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours?
OK then. While still certainly one of the band’s best albums, twenty years on from its release it doesn’t cross over brilliantly into the live arena – but its still great to hear an outing of tracks that in some cases, many fans will never have heard played live.
And if there’s ever a Lifeblood anniversary tour, I’ll still be there, down the front.