Manic Street Preachers, Roundhouse, London
Reviewed by Nick Hasted
Monday 01 June 2009
"This part of the evening's been made possible by Mr Richard James Edwards," singer James Dean Bradfield simply observes. As the Manic Street Preachers play their new album, Journal for Plague Lovers, through, its lyricist, Richey Edwards, is represented by pink feather boas draped round a vacant mic-stand. Edwards has remained crucial to the band's story since he, in all probability, committed suicide in 1995. He hasn't been their conscience; the remaining trio are overloaded with that. But the Manics have always struggled to retain a link to who they were in the early 1990s: intellectual provocateurs, led out of south Wales by desperate punk dreams. Edwards's notebooks, handed to bassist Nicky Wire shortly before he vanished and the source of this album's words, restore that spirit in a somehow living collaboration.
It's a measure of the Manics' enduring commitment that Wire is touring with a prolapsed disc. He moves in undersea slow motion, more interesting than his usual wild spins. Journal sounds like optimal Manics: sharp, clattering tunes with crammed, culture-hungry verbal collisions. In the pretty troubadour strum of "She Bathed Herself in a Bath of Bleach", phrases such as "skin cancer" and "neon phobia" leap out. Wire steps to that vacant mic to sing "William's Last Words", a clear suicide poem that soothes: "I've been watching over you... you're the best friend I ever had... good night, sleep tight." No wonder Bradfield couldn't do it.
"Motorcycle Emptiness" starts a second half of hits. "All we want from you are the kicks you've given us," goes their most vaulting, widescreen anthem. The passionate roar back from the crowd shows that mutual bond is lifelong. More recent songs don't suffer. "Australia", which helped take them on to the supermarket shelves their new album's sleeve is banned from, has choruses streamlined till they squeak yet beats with the old heart. The keyboard washes of "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next" can't sweep away the anti-fascist truths they rammed to No 1 in 1998. "We know the meaning of love, and we do love you," Bradfield simply says to some of rock's most faithful fans before "A Design for Life", and lets them take a word-packed and perfect verse. The song couldn't be bigger, and in the wake of Edwards's death gave them the subversive pop impact he dreamt of. None of that feels lost tonight.
Final Top Gear reviewTV
FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets
Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Should Apple buy Greece?
- 2 Michael Douglas regrets 'embarrassing' Catherine Zeta-Jones with oral sex comments
- 3 Drummer Lee Rigby's family reject 'extremist' groups using Woolwich murder for political gain
- 4 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 5 Fox News anchor asks 'what's to prevent' three people from marrying after same-sex marriage legalised
Lionel Richie at Glastonbury 2015, review: Like the anti-Kanye he delights in audience engagement
Glastonbury 2015: Lionel Richie attracts festival's biggest crowds for Sunday's 'dad slot'
Glastonbury 2015: The best things you missed from Lionel Richie and the Dalai Lama to how beautiful the festival is
Glastonbury 2015: Shocking scenes of rubbish left strewn across campsite as clean-up begins
Glastonbury 2015: The Who take swipe at Kanye West - 'who's the biggest rock star in the world?'
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Austerity is essential if Britain wants to reduce inequality – why can't the left-wingers who march against it realise this?
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Extend Right To Buy to tenants of private landlords, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn says
David Cameron struck double blow in his hopes to win Britain a new EU deal