Manic Street Preachers @ Arena Birmingham, 27 April 2018

Heading into Birmingham tonight for Manic Street Preachers couldn’t have been any smoother.  I’ve never driven down that awful stretch of M6 and got to the venue without any signs of intense traffic or delays so that’s a first.

On walking to the Arena I was a little disheartened to find just a couple of touts and….no-one, where are the queues, have I got the wrong night?  This is far too easy,  firstly I check right night, yes right night, right venue.

We have The Coral to warm us up, as they come out “Alright Birmingham” I felt there were a small humble crowd watching a band that are the type you get lost in.  Great that The Coral are making waves again now and rising in popularity.  In many ways, a little like the Manics, no bells and whistles and they rely purely on their music.  Visually you see very little else going on, you get lost in the funky vibes and of course, the crowd that are here are really enjoying it.

The band get the same level of applause at the end of each track. They are one of those bands that are not for everyone, and they are not for me, but  this does not detract from the quality.   As such I feel that really psyche rock is still alive for those who want pure nostalgia at least for this album.

The Manic Street Preachers, wow, to express how great it feels – it’s so good to be here in an arena.    Being able to see the Welsh legends play in Arena Birmingham is a big move up from when we last saw them at Wolves Civic a couple of years ago.   Despite the increase in size, it feels like a full arena show with connection, the very eager fans fill all the space available.  The band are touring in support of their latest studio album Resistance is Futile, which is their  13th studio album and as Nicky Wire told the media recently  “You all have your latest iPhones, we still have our guitars”.  While they have consistently performed for over more than the past 2 decades this album does bring a mixture of their roots together with new vitality.

Opening up with their latest hit single International Blue from the new album, the atmosphere was exactly that, blue.  Blue auras and lights surrounded the band, with palpable excitement belting out from James Dean Bradfield, causing him to jump around. This was followed by taking us back 20 years with You Stole The Sun From My Heart, with the  crowd bouncing and arms waving we were taken back with Everything Must Go, then further back with No Surface All Feeling.   The stadium sound feels empowering and already we’ve had a variety of songs – what next?

Wire is in his own little world throughout, pacing, strutting around stage and is most definitely on form.  He still looking like a stylised icon of the past and the thing which I think nobody will have noticed was his Brillo Tee under his dark suit.

Dylan & Caitlin with Wayne Murray provide backing vocals, then James Dean tells us that he will be doing Catherine’s vocals as the audience sing along.  He claims with a smile that he has a great woman’s voice, we will all agree.   To end we have the humour of Wire when he talks to the crowd, “I’ve always loved musicals, Sound of Music,  Mary Poppins, the fucking water torture of entertainment, so enjoy the screens, enjoy the majesty,  the cheapos the intelligence the sheer fucking beauty of Mr Richard Edwards, he is with us, he is riding, and singing and playing Motor…cycle…Emp…ti…ness”  the sound fills the arena and the crowd erupt into excitement, dancing and cheering – clearly the highlight for me.

But the fun and excitement does not end here.  With an extensive catalogue The Manics move to the hit If You Tolerate This You Children Will Be Next with combined blue and white streamers fired into the crowd breaking through the atmospheric lighting. Following this James Dean Bradfield gets sentimental and assures us that we have been magnificent so far.  A thank you, as he is fast approaching 50, next year,” You keep me alive baby” even a reviewer can’t help but feel a tear.

He then proceeds to belt out couple of acoustic tracks “I am an architect” as the crowd fill in “They call me a butcher” Bradfield “I am an pioneer” the crowd fill “They Call me primitive” follow by Bradfield “I am purity” we all know this as the lyrics to Faster.  Near the end it goes quiet as everyone thinks he’s finished, then there are   roars and claps as he bursts back into strumming ‘So damn easy to cave in” as the crowd respond, man kills everything”  several times before closing to major applause.  The last acoustic is Despair to Where, with the crowd providing background sounds at which James laughs as he’s playing.  The close to this track includes a huge sounding ending of Total Eclipse of the Heart…from  Despair to Where, maybe they now need to do a cover of this as it sounded so good.

They regroup, this time Wire is wearing a complete white suit with matching hat, he is fairly modest as he tells us he has nice legs and his physique was down to drinking Ribena and eating Kit Kats.   We need to learn a thing or two from this… kit kats huh… the crowd laugh and they continue by belting out You Love Us.

James Dean Bradfield as always is a charismatic gent, giving everything he has and at this point is doing little bunny hop jumps left, right and back again.  Clearly despite them both him and Wire mentioning their ages he doesn’t feel it and with the performance tonight they have managed to keep their youthfulness by continuing to WOW and excite crowd with their old rock and roll style, which is nothing like most of today’s music.   Sometimes, I just wish I could go back again and again, their music doesn’t get dull and now we have something new but which at the same time retains their style.

Though it doesn’t stop here,  they continue with Hold Me Like Heaven and Slash N Burn before finishing on the epic Design For Life, easily their most well known song.  Golden confetti pours out over the crowd, filling the arena sky and floor with a warm glow.

Tonight was pretty much the chance to gaze in awe at a band in their prime and to get lost in the performance.  They have supplied  a varied array of songs  tonight, which span their entire career and from almost all of their albums.    The whole performance sounded on point they don’t miss a beat and while they have never been and I guess never will be a “flashy” band, no one cares about this we don’t need the bells and whistles.

The Manics come to perform, they belt out their music with precision and appear to be regular guys will little ego, (ok maybe a little).  They clearly enjoy performing, their crowd most definitely enjoyed the show tonight and they exceeded this reviewers expectations.

  1. International Blue
  2. You Stole the Sun From My Heart
  3. No Surface All Feeling
  4. Distant Colours
  5. Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
  6. 4 Ever Delayed
  7. Dylan & Caitlin
  8. Motorcycle Emptiness
  9. There by the Grace of God
  10. The Masses Against the Classes
  11. Horses Under Starlight
  12. Kevin Carter
  13. If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
  14. Faster (James Dean Bradfield solo acoustic)
  15. From Despair to Where (James Dean Bradfield solo… more )
  16. You Love Us
  17. Walk Me to the Bridge
  18. Hold Me Like a Heaven
  19. Tsunami
  20. Let Robeson Sing
  21. People Give In
  22. Slash ‘n’ Burn
  23. A Design for Life


Photographer/Reviewer: Chris Bowley

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