Photography: John Middleton / johnmiddletonphoto.co.uk

Manic Street Preachers

Eventim Olympia 30/5/19

The Olympia’s theatre walls shine blood red. From the fog they appear: lead singer and guitarist James Dean Bradfield, followed by bass player and lyricist Nicky Wire, dressed in a Lou Reed Transformer T-shirt, with patch and badge adorned white blazer featuring a picture of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust stitched onto the back. Then, finally, drummer Sean Moore sits himself down, drumsticks in hand eager to let out his rage.

The Olympia is filled to the brim at this point with fans sporting feather boas, leopard print blouses and lipstick and military surplus uniforms replicating their heroes. The MANIC STREET PREACHERS are ready to preach their manifesto of culture, alienation, boredom and despair to the people of Liverpool. Their first 13 songs of reflective ballads are in celebration of 20 years of their second most commercially successful album, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. After that, as Bradfield says, is “cheap, dancey fun”.

They open with The Everlasting, calling out to the useless generations of past and present while Bradfield screams with his mighty and majestic voice: “The gap that grows between our lives/The gap our parents never had/Stop those thoughts control your mind/ Replace the things that you despise”.

The audience is completely captivated by their teachings of nihilistic beliefs. They stand strong in protest of a hegemonic world blinded by neon lights and societal expectations. Soon after, the stage disperses, and Bradfield is standing alone below the spotlight. He gently strums his guitar playing Born A Girl, a song with lyrics that judge what it is to be a man, the androgyny a more human way of expression of the self: “And I wish I had been born a girl Instead of what I am/ Yes I wish I had been born a girl, and not this mess of a man”.

Later, Nicky Wire’s bass sends a wave of aggression that penetrates the sweat soaked crowd, droplets falling from their hair. They cover Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child O’ Mine, a song that many compare the Manics’ sound in their early formative years to. Though surprised, the audience scream back the words and jump up while their arms wail in the air.

Bradfield spits at the stage floor then wipes it with his shoe. Wire limbers up, stretching on the amps decorated with Welsh flags; he turns, flinging his twig-like legs in the air, which provokes screams of enjoyment from the fans pressed up on the barricade. Halfway through the gig Bradfield stops playing his guitar, Wire stops strumming his bass and Moore’s wailing arms came to a halt. Bradfield introduces his band: “General life force and lifeblood to everything which is MSP, currently standing in as tall as Radio City in Liverpool: Mr Nicholas Wire”. Then Sean: “the man who gives the beat with no punctuation and the power and the madness: Mr Sean Anthony Moore.” Nicky reminisces on their love for Liverpool from performing at the Hillsborough Justice Concert in 1997, and the love for Liverpool that the band’s key lyricist and rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards, who mysteriously disappeared 24 years ago, had for our city. Wire states that he “tried to look like Ian McCulloch for five fucking years”, then dedicates their next song, You Love Us, to his greatness. Their final song, A Design For Life, comes to an end, and the band wish us goodnight as they leave the stage and we, the exhilarated audience, turn to the exit doors, wading through a sea of spilt lager and plastic cups.

It’s clear from their monumental performance that the Manic Street Preachers are one of the last true rock ’n’ roll bands out there. At one point during the performance, Wire says that “sometimes only through true misery do you achieve greatness”. I think that’s understandable whether you’re a writer, an artist or a musician. There’s nobody more inspiring than the Manics.

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