I first saw the Manic Street Preachers at Leeds’ Town and Country Club on their Holy Bible Tour. It was the last night of the tour and to the collective astonishment of the audience, they smashed all their gear up at the end of the gig.
No encore,largely because all the instruments were in bits but it was a real shock to me — I’d not seen anything like that before. It later transpired that troubled guitarist Richie Edwards went missing after the tour and was never seen again.
Over the years, I’ve seen them at festivals primarily, their star gradually fading as new bands emerged and as such they slipped down the billing. But they always delivered a committed and powerful set from their vast back catalogue.
So when I saw they were to perform their seminal album The Holy Bible, in full, I had to be there for that. In truth The Holy Bible is one of the most uncompromising and inaccessible albums I’ve ever heard. I’ve always found it difficult to listen to it for longer that 15 minutes, never mind from start to finish.
The Manics’ later work is more rounded and radio friendly and over the years I think they have become better songwriters and the odd album aside, have a back catalogue any band would kill for. Last year saw them release the introspective Rewind The Film, a bittersweet meditation on age, followed up by the bold electronica of this years’ Futurology.
Last night was a gig of two halves; first half a bold, successful, crowd-pleasing experiment playing the ultimate Manics album from start to finish, in the running order of the album. The old songs sounded almost fresher than when they were first played, the sound production and mix giving them a taut and defined new lease of life.
The second half was essentially a greatest hits set peppered with gems and new songs. The Manics have never been afraid to play whatever they fancied but they didn’t shirk their responsibility to play the big hits alongside instrumentals and even a cover of Wham’s Last Christmas.
Overall it was a stunning, mesmerising evening of music delivered by a band with a palpable sense of renewed passion.