Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Music review: Manic Street Preachers - a satisfying and varied show
Less than two years ago, the Manic Street Preachers played the 20,000-capacity O2 Arena. Now, they play to a tenth of that audience size, the intimacy of this west London venue - and others on this tour - ideal for their new, 11th studio album, Rewind the Film, which revolves around gentle acoustic modes. It seems that in their middle age the Welsh band are embracing subtlety (musically, at least).
But the trio have not mellowed completely, as tonight’s performance attests. The show erupts into "Motorcycle Emptiness" – the band bathed in the glare of red light, James Dean Bradfield’s vocals as impassioned as ever, Nicky Wire resplendent in a striking red suit – and the band’s precision guided by the tight beats of drummer Sean Moore. It’s the first of 20 songs which span their 27-year career, in a show that is for the fans. The urgency of "Revol", from their darkest, angriest album, The Holy Bible, and the punk garage of live favourite "Motown Junk" show them to be as vital and energetic as they ever were.
The new material stands out, but certainly not for lack of audience participation – the crowd appears to be singing the lyrics throughout. The uplifting "Show Me the Wonder", which Bradfield introduces as being about the "grey area between certainty and uncertainty", is bolstered by majestic trumpet, adding gorgeous harmonising over Bradfield's vocals. More wistful is the title track of their new album, for which Sheffield star Richard Hawley arrives onstage to a rapturous reception, his rich baritone adding still more gravitas to poignant lyrics such as "There is too much heartbreak/ In the nothing of the now/ I’ll want to see it all/ Never want to let it go", in which Wire contemplates the despair of ageing. Yearning string samples accompany Bradfield’s subtle, finger-picked guitar.
Another highlight is a tender medley performed solo by Bradfield, with a wistful pair of songs – the new "This Sullen Welsh Heart" and a pared down version of the 1998 single "The Everlasting" – placed alongside Franki Valli's "Can’t Take My Eyes Off You".
The band roll out one fan favourite after another. Crowd-pleasers "You Love Us", "You Stole the Sun from My Heart" and "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next" have the room bouncing, and completing the vocals at the request of Bradfield – who, alongside the ever cheerful Wire, remains one of rock’s ultimate showmen.
What the new album has given the Manics is a wider array of emotions, sonic textures and gentler dynamics – resulting in a most satisfying, varied show.
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 4 Video shows what happens when lava is poured onto ice
- 5 Cate Blanchett loses temper during interview: 'That's your f**king question?'
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
One Direction fans set up crowdfunding page to buy the band after Zayn Malik quits
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
James May hints Top Gear days are over following Jeremy Clarkson's BBC suspension
James May hints he will not continue on Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Vote Ukip, says far-right group Britain First