Gig Review: Manic Street Preachers at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea

At the age of eleven I watched the 1997 Brit Awards and came away with three clear impressions- the Bee Gees were awesome, Geri Halliwell was a goddess and that I quite liked Welsh rock band the Manic Street Preachers. I asked for, and received, the Manics’ Everything Must Go album, which was the fourth album I ever owned.

I listened to it a fair few times and loved a couple of tracks from it (“Design for Life”, “Australia” and the title track) before it slipped down my rotation list as my collection grew. However, I was pretty excited when the band announced a 20th anniversary tour where they would perform the album.

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Unfortunately, the tickets were released when I was asking and watched as my friends celebrated getting their tickets. Thinking I had missed out I was a little glum but moved on. Then at Christmas, MWF revealed that she had got us tickets as a present to me. This was very cool of her, especially as she’s not a Manics fan at all.

And so having just turned 31, I finally saw a band that I’ve liked since I was eleven. And they did not disappoint.

They played their classic album almost in full, which meant their set kicked off with the anthemic “A Design For Life”, a bold choice to use one of their best known tracks as an opener. I stood and sung along as best I could, helped by a couple of ciders and enjoyed hearing half forgotten songs like “Kevin Carter” again. The band played with practised ease and obvious enthusiasm, with front man James Dean Bradfield chatting easily with the crowd and introducing the songs.

The crowd responded well and even darkening clouds and distant flashes of lightning didn’t effect their enthusiasm. Even when the clouds opened later on during the set it had no noticeable effect on the mood of the crowd. But then this was an open air gig in Wales, it wouldn’t be the same without the rain. JDB stated “I love the rain” adding that some of his happiest memories are in the Welsh rain.

The first half was Everything Must Go and the second saw them branch out, revealing just how many amazing songs they have in their back catalogue. The guitar led early work like “Motorcycle Emptiness” and “You Love Us” sitting comfortably alongside more poppy later work like “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough”.

As expected for a Welsh gig by one of the pillars of the 90s “Cwl Cymru”, patriotism was running wild. JDB wielded a guitar bearing the red dragon, Welsh flags and shirts were abundant and it reached it’s peak during their performance of “Together Stronger” the band’s rousing theme for the Welsh squad’s Euro 2016 campaign. Featuring a summary of the national side’s past misfortunes and a tribute to Gary Speed, it proved a very moving experience and I’m not ashamed to say I got a little choked up.

They closed their set with one of my personal favourites, “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, leaving having been reminded of just how good a band they are and the quality of their back catalogue and filled with renewed affection for the group.

I spent much of yesterday with “If You Tolerate This…” and “A Design for Life” vying for playing on my mental jukebox and I fully intend giving their albums a spin in the coming days.

Support was provided by Public Service Broadcasting, who we missed due to arriving late and the psychedelic, progress noodling of Super Furry Animals, who were quite fun with a set ranging from cheerful Beach Boys style efforts to full blown trippy excess.

All in all, a good night out, even if it highlighted my age. Not just because an album I loved has turned twenty but because I happily spent some of the gig in a seat. Although I did relish what may be my only chance to step onto the Liberty field.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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