Welsh rockers, the Manic Street Preachers recently stopped off at O2 Apollo, Manchester as part of their current UK tour in support of their fourteenth album, The Ultra Vivid Lament. Released last month, the album received a wealth of support and gave the trio their first number one album in almost a quarter of a century.
Opening with the anthemic ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’, which saw frontman James Dean Bradfield visiting the edge of the stage and spinning with his guitar, it was clear to see that the band were ecstatic to be back – and we don’t blame them, it had been a whopping 28 months since their last Manchester gig, which was over at the Ritz. Next up was ‘Orwellian’, the catchy lead single from The Ultra Vivid Lament that was a welcome introduction to their new material, before live favourite, ‘Your Love Alone Is Not Enough’.
The band played a total of six new tracks – including the live debut of ‘Afterending’ and a hauntingly beautiful rendition of ‘Still Snowing In Sapporo’ that featured isolated vocals from Bradfield throughout the verses, with instrumentation kicking in for the chorus. Despite the album being predominantly piano based, the new tracks were much heavier live – allowing bassist, Nicky Wire to scissor-kick to his hearts content and perfectly complementing the rawer material in the set, such as ‘Slash ‘N’ Burn’ and ‘You Love Us’.
A particular highlight of Manics’ gigs is Bradfield’s acoustic segment, which is usually the part of the setlist that’s shaken up each night – given the option of an old song with lots of swearing or a newer one, the crowd broke into rapturous applause for the prior, resulting in a mass singalong of the lyrically sublime, ‘Stay Beautiful’. The band then re-joined Bradfield onstage for an electrifying cover of ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ by Guns N’ Roses, which truly shone a spotlight on his guitar skills – there’s a reason that Wire refers to him as everybody’s guitar hero!
Overall, the setlist was a good mix of old and new, with classics such as ‘You Stole the Sun from My Heart’ and ‘Everything Must Go’ sat alongside material from all areas of their thirty plus year career – including ‘Spectators of Suicide’, which was originally recorded for their 1991 EP, ‘You Love Us’. The evening came to an end with ‘A Design For Life’ – a timeless masterpiece that not only always gets everybody on their feet, but also places emphasis on just how great the band are live. Fifteen albums in, the band don’t seem to be slowing down and have more energy than ever – when they’re back in town, you can count on us being there!