Manic Street Preachers, Music Hall, Aberdeen

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The Independent Culture

The Manic Street Preachers are not the same band who first snared the hearts of a young generation at the tail end of the Thatcher era, and nor have they been for more than a decade. It's partly down to the disappearance of their guitarist, Richey Edwards, yet also, arguably, Tony Blair.

The self-proclaimed "Generation Terrorists" briefly represented a British alternative to Nirvana, their songs wracked with a nihilistic aversion to the mainstream. Yet the Manics also wore their profoundly left-wing heart on their collective sleeve.

The Welsh quartet's enforced post-Edwards reinvention ran roughly concurrent with the beginning of the Blair years, and their riotously downbeat sound thereafter would hold no appeal for the masses who gorged on the naive optimism of Britpop.

So they adjusted their sound, and enjoyed their greatest flush of success. Yet their new audience didn't care for dissent, and all but their original fans ignored the lyrics in favour of the brash but poppy tunes.

The huge success of "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next" notwithstanding, they're now not widely thought of as a great protest band, more as survivors who have written a succession of memorable guitar-pop anthems.

The only overt political statement here was the Welsh flag draped over an amplifier, the only controversy the revelation that Nicky Wire had won a bet with James Dean Bradfield concerning which of their tours this venue last featured on. He will, apparently, spend his winnings on cheap champagne, but he should look into new trousers: the bassist and lyricist is getting too close to middle-age for crotch-enveloping white jeans.

Yet in an era when new indie bands are content to trumpet their hedonism and regurgitate the same old love stories, the Manics' catalogue once again sounds fresh and exciting. Most of all, it sounds relevant, from the ecstatic hopelessness of "Motorcycle Emptiness", "Motown Junk" and "La Tristesse Durera", to the more veiled dissatisfaction of "Everything Must Go", "You Stole the Sun from My Heart" and "A Design for Life".

The new songs reference international affairs ("Rendition") and political stooges ("I'm Just a Patsy"), but their meaning doesn't corrupt the impassioned delivery. "Boy, you're old, I hear you say," sings Bradfield during the acoustic "Everlasting", "It doesn't mean that I don't care." If only more of today's bands had followed their lead.

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