Manic Street Preachers and Editors at the Royal Albert Hall
The evening begins with Editors, singer Tom Smith’s baroque, oak-aged baritone perfectly at home amidst the grandeur of the Royal Albert Hall. Their rich, textured sound permeates every arch of the cavernous venue, warming up proceedings perfectly. They leave the stage, Welsh flags appear everywhere – everyone knows what’s coming.
A lone James Dean Bradfield walks onto the stage to open Manic Street Preachers’ set with an acoustic rendition of Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier. The rest of the band join him part-way through, then go straight into a rip-roaring performance of A Design for Life – a gritted-teeth ode to the working class. The reaction from the crowd is a mixture of passion and jubilation as they hear Everything Must Go in full, 20 years on.
Everything Must Go was a significant album for the Manics – the first without rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards, after his disappearance in 1995. Edwards was the dark heart of the band, and whilst not contributing a great deal musically, he wrote the majority of the lyrics, and essentially the band’s entire manifesto. Without him they lost the chilling insularity that bled throughout 1994’s The Holy Bible.
As the band rip through the first half of the album, it’s clear that songs like Kevin Carter and the title track could not have been made in the presence of Edwards, but their timely anthemic leanings gave them a commercial accessibility that chimed with britpop, and thus made them superstars. Everything Must Go splits their career in two and the discord of fans is evident on the night; for every set of brown brogues is a pair of Dr Martens, and for every crew cut, a mohawk sprouts behind.
The most tender moment comes via the words of Edwards. Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky is delivered acoustically by Bradfield, clearly humbled to be singing the words of such a talented yet tortured lyricist. Following this, The Girl Who Wanted to Be God thunders in with heavy guitar and strings, Australia is a huge hit with the crowd and No Surface All Feeling brings the album set to a spectacular close beneath a downpour of streamers.
Then comes the career-spanning greatest hits set, showing that they still haven’t – and perhaps never will – lose it. Bradfield’s voice and guitar playing are as powerful as ever, and bassist Nicky Wire’s groove and presence still effortlessly glows. With their anniversary tour of The Holy Bible barely two years previous, sometimes it feels as if there exists a parallel retrospective music world, where one can satisfy nostalgia through an endless stream of anniversaries. The Manics, however, still appear to be relevant. The politicised lyrics have only grown in potency. The songs have aged well. As they end with the fist-clenching If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next, it’s difficult to imagine the song ever not being relevant. Just as Nicky Wire will never not be one of the coolest men in rock. They are ever-present, and welcome.
Photo: Olivier Bourgi
For further information about the Manic Street Preachers and future events visit here.
Watch them perform A Design For Life on Later With Jools Holland here: