Live Report: Manic Street Preachers – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

Performing 'This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours' in full...

The fandom that exists around Manic Street Preachers is one of the band’s enduring qualities. It’s a self-contained, self-sustaining community, a vast network of people who throng each show, debate each lyric, and aid the band’s continued stature at every turn.

Returning to London for two nights, Manic Street Preachers agree to play their vastly successful 1998 release ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours’ in full. It’s both a natural yet also somewhat odd bequest: the record might have sold in incredible quantities, but it’s a difficult, taciturn, at times sluggish listen, with even the band’s recent re-issue re-jigging the tracklisting.

Somehow, though, it all works. Opening with a tender version of ‘The Everlasting’, the highs more than sustain the set. A pensive version of ‘Born A Girl’ provides an unexpected highlight, James Dean Bradfield’s forelorn vocal more than doing justice to one of Nicky Wire’s most personal lyrics.

The three-guitar attack supplies a huge weight to the sound, something that comes across on crisp Top 10 belters ‘Tsunami’ and the evergreen ‘You Stole The Sun From My Heart’. Sean Moore is a silent powerhouse on drums, while Nicky’s preening, prowling bass routine – he changes jackets half-way through, just ‘cos he can – truly rolls back the years.

Of course, not everything on the album can please all of the people, all of the time. Commenting that the record is essentially a big prog, James Dean Bradfield leads the band into a lengthy ‘Ready For Drowning’ while his guitar work on ‘My Little Empire’ is exceptional.

Ending with ‘If You Tolerate This…’ the moment becomes celebratory rather than maudlin, a point of union between band and fans – after all, to many this lengthy, at points difficult, mainstream smash was a point of entry to Manic Street Preachers as a whole.

The second set is a more free-form run-through, encompassing deep cuts and greatest hits alike. Early belters like ‘You Love Us’ are given their potent moment of glam metal glory, while ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ remains emblematic of the band’s bittersweet euphoria.

‘International Blue’ points to the future, while ‘Solitude Sometimes Is’ brings out the best in a supremely gifted band performance. ‘No Surface All Feeling’ finds Nicky Wire emotionally dedicating the track to former manager Martin Hall and “the sheer fuck off ness” of Richey Edwards, leading into a righteous, defiant ‘A Design For Life’.

It’s a night for fans, whether they discovered Manic Street Preachers in their 4REAL era or wearing beige combat trousers. It’s a sign of their continued vitality, their ability to confuse, beguile, and inspire, a singular evening from a singular band.

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