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Manic Street Preachers, O2 Academy, Birmingham - review with pictures

By Leigh Sanders | Birmingham | Music | Published:

When the Manics are in this mood, there are few bands who can perform to this standard with this ease.

Manic Street Preachers. Photos by: Dave Cox

The relationship with their often-picky fanbase is something special. So when the Valleys boyos James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore are in party mood, that energy feeds right back at them from the sweaty hordes at their feet.

Tonight they were celebrating 20 years since their Brit and NME Award-winning record This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours hit the shelves. While it topped the charts, it polarised the fanbase due to its split from their previous furious wall of alt-rock and many weren't happy.

So the fact a tour playing the record in full - copying the re-released 20th anniversary version by dropping Nobody Loved You in place of the epic Prologue To History - would still attract a sold-out, vibrant and up-for-it crowd is testament to that love for the band.

A little too much at times. On two separate occasions Bradfield had to stop mid-song to pull security in to break up a fight. "We don't need this s***," he said as the fans booed the perpetrators in frustration.

Welsh songstress Gwenno provided the opening with her deep, brooding, melancholic electro-pop reverberating around the arena. The vast Welsh contingent in the crowd had arrived early to support one of their own. And they were treated with her vocally haunting, mostly Welsh and Cornish language tales woven around the kind of ambiances that would make the soundtrack of any coming-of-age indie flick.

The Manics fans showed their softer side too - finding out it was her birthday tonight. Due to her hit track about cheese sung in Cornish, they'd brought along a Camembert complete with lit candle and passed it down to the front while singing Happy Birthday to her. They've gone soft as they've gotten older.

The Manics gave us a track-by-track play-through of TIMTTMY and it has aged pretty well.

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You Stole The Sun From My Heart brought about an early karaoke sesh with its bouncing chorus really bringing the arena to life.

Tsunami followed that tack, while the album's more morose side came through well with a beautifully painful rendition of My Little Empire sung with equal enthusiasm by the audience despite its softer tendencies.

Manic Street Preachers. Photos by: Dave Cox

One of the reasons the album split the fanbase so much is this softer underbelly to the music. The band were still reeling from the disappearance of friend and lyricist Richey Edwards and a lot of contemplation comes through in Wire's lyrics contained within.

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The stripped back rendition of Born A Girl executed perfectly by Bradfield is the prime example.

Despite this, they still managed to turn its playthough into a celebration. Bradfield is an accomplished and talented frontman. Wire with his supermodel legs one of the few performers to get away with having their own name in huge sparkling letters on the back of his jacket.

Prologue To History sounded brilliant with its jangling keys and hit single If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next - very apt given Theresa May is still clinging perilously to power ahead of another Tory power struggle that will surely hit us all hard - sounded as good as ever.

Manic Street Preachers. Photos by: Dave Cox

The second half of their set was 'the hits' and this is where things really exploded. They blasted through a 10-track cross-section of their career and picked brilliantly. We could all list 20 songs we love that didn't make it. But this was the perfect 'beginner's guide to' mini-set that encompassed all that makes them great from 1992 through to 2018.

Your Love Alone Is Not Enough was raucous. Motorcycle Emptiness rip-roaring. And they even had time to slip in Solitude Sometimes Is from the much-maligned 2004 record Lifeblood.

La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh) sounded fantastic with that disgustingly good guitar solo to tantalise air guitar players and You Love Us got its usual religiously fanatical reaction.

As always, they left us with that tear-enducing anthem of growing up in tough conditions that hits anyone with Welsh blood in their veins in the feels - A Design For Life.

Manic Street Preachers. Photos by: Dave Cox

Know Your Enemy turns 20 in 2021 lads...

Leigh Sanders

By Leigh Sanders
@LSanders_Star

Senior sub editor for the MNA portfolio and entertainments writer leaning towards features and reviews. Get releases to me at leigh.sanders@expressandstar.co.uk

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