Manic Street Preachers, Brixton Academy, London
Tuesday 25 January 2011
The savage rip in the Manic Street Preachers' life was, of course, the disappearance and likely death of Richey Edwards in 1995. The loss of their friend and bandmate still brought Nicky Wire close to traumatised tears when he spoke of it last year. Musically too, there was the rupture of the giant stadium-filling singles they wrote afterwards, the almost guiltily ironic achievement of the subversive dreams they and Richey had. Tonight's tremendous, happy gig shows that that scar is healing over.
Richey is, as always, present in the feather-boa draped mic-stand left waiting should he ever return for it. They've moved on from that loss by taking him with them. Last year's album, Postcards from a Young Man, is the crucial change. Because it's possessed of all their previous strengths, it lets them integrate their whole history in this show. It proves that they've only ever been better or worse at being themselves.
A scissor-kick from Nicky Wire introduces their 1992 anthem "Motorcycle Emptiness", an already epic rock song perhaps doubled in length before it rumbles to a stop. Last year's single "(It's Not War) Just the End of Love" follows, similar and practically, pointedly equal. The sudden introspection of "My Little Empire" is followed by "Postcards from a Young Man", a 2010 song with a swaggering climb which makes it feel like the band are about to punch through the ceiling; a deliberately nostalgic song that demonstrates the Manics' power is in the present tense. The choking attack of 1991's punkish "You Love Us" follows immediately. Resonances from the band's history – like the post-Richey freight their cover of "Suicide is Painless" now carries – are observed but don't overwhelm. More important is the way, with songs such as "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next", they still repudiate every community-slashing value of governments like the current one, in a spirit of unifying joy.
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