Live review: Manic Street Preachers at the First Direct Arena, Leeds
Manic Street Preachers frontman James Dean Bradfield might be a master showman, but he’s no maths wizard.
Introducing the Welsh band’s version of the 1983 Fiction Factory single (Feels Like) Heaven, he described it as the oldest song of the night, apparently forgetting that he’d played an excellent acoustic version of the 1969 Hal David and Burt Bacharach tune Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head eight songs earlier into their 24-track set last night, May 20.
That, however, was the only thing that the 47-year-old and his band got wrong all night as they were at the top of their game, and it’s doubtful that many of those in the three-quarters-full venue were there to assess his potential to be the next Carol Vorderman anyway, so he can be more than forgiven.
What they were there for was to hear the Welshmen playing their fourth album, 1996’s Everything Must Go, in its entirety to mark its 20th anniversary, and none would have gone home from the 13,500-capacity venue disappointed.
From its opening song, Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier, to its closing number, No Surface All Feeling, three-quarters of an hour or so later, taking in a singalong version of A Design for Life along the way, the band more than did justice to what is one of the finest moments of their 30-year career and also one of the best albums released by anyone over that time, now reissued in expanded form.
And magnificent as that was, it wasn’t all the veteran alternative rock act had to offer as, following a five-minute interval, a further 12-song set followed, kicking off with an acoustic version of their 2001 single Ocean Spray and closing with a confetti shower-accompanied rendition of 1998’s If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next, the first of their two chart-topping singles.
In between, they trotted out a succession of greatest hits and classic album tracks including 1992’s Motorcycle Emptiness, 1999’s You Stole the Sun From My Heart and 2007’s Your Love Alone is Not Enough.
Perhaps wisely, their last two albums not ranking among their best, 2013’s Rewind the Film and the year after’s Futurology were only represented by one track apiece, How Me the Wonder and Walk Me to the Bridge respectively, but, happily enough, they were both splendid too.
It’s been two decades now since the Manics made the step up to stadium rock status, and that is readily evident as they clearly know how to put on a show, backed up by three video screens showing a mixture of abstract images and poignant pictures from their past. Crucially, though, they retain enough edginess, energy and earnestness never to come across as a corporate money-making machine, despite their concert tickets costing up to £47.50 and T-shirts going for the now-customary £25 or £30 in the merchandise stalls outside, and they always seem genuinely delighted and grateful to be able to draw audiences of the size they still command and thoroughly deserve.
Special guests the Editors were also in fine form, playing a cracking eight-song set starting with 2014’s Sugar and concluding with last year’s Marching Orders to an audience far more sizeable than is customary for warm-up acts.
The Manics not having played in the North East since their 2010 show at Newcastle’s O2 Academy, this was the best chance for their fans in the region to see them this time round, though their gig at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro tonight, May 21, is only 50 miles further than the journey of 100 miles or so to Leeds. Tickets to catch them there cost £39.75 to £53.90. For details, go to www.thessehydro.com or www.manicstreetpreachers.com