Live reporting: Manic Street Preachers – SSE Wembley Arena, London | Live
Maniacal street preachers are one of the most trusted forces in British music. The everlasting awkward team, the Welsh band’s ability to overcome time and trauma has held them in good stead over the past 18 months, a period in which audiences and musicians have been locked in and forced to switch plan more times than anyone can remember.
But, finally, they are there. Tonight is the closing night of their Celebratory UK Tour, a series of live events that follow the recent LP “The Ultra Vivid Lament” – their UK number one debut album in 23 years, and one of their strongest for a decade.
It is therefore not surprising to find Manic Street Preachers operating with a certain swagger and manhood. Diving straight into ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’, the group moves with palpable electricity, the opening segment of the show merging some of the biggest hits that fans enjoy with some standout moments from their recent record.
“Orwellian” and “The Secret He Had Missed” contain true majesty, their literary yet catchy qualities are fully evidenced by tonight’s context; James Dean Bradfield launches into “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough” backed by Nicky Wire and the exceptional drums of Sean Moore.
Yet it is often the most surprising elements of the whole that cut the most deeply. As exciting as it is to hear “Everything Must Go” after the endless buzz of lock (s), the emotional pull of “Still Snowing In Sapporo” – combined with vintage visuals and photographs on screen – has a lasting impact. Bradfield’s solo turn on a shy “La Tristessa Durera” is a joy, while a polished cover of The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary” – a tribute to producer and Manics cohort Steve Brown – finds the guitarist living his fantasies of 80s gothic rock.
However, not everything is connected. With a fan base built over decades, it’s impossible to please everyone – and given Wembley Arena’s cavernous position, the dots are getting a bit cold. Those moments pass quickly, however, especially with Manic Street Preachers able to slide a mighty ‘Love’s Sweet Exile’, an exhilarating and ramshackle ‘Motown Junk’ and a majestic confetti-strewn over ‘If you put up with this, your kids will be the ones. next ”.
Closing, naturally, with ‘A Design For Life’ is a daring, engaged and emphatic renunciation of the pandemic blues of a band that refuses to let go of their standards. Drawing on the full strength of their catalog, Manic Street Preachers are using it to build a platform for future paths – a celebration from start to finish tonight shows their work is far from over.
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Words: Robin murray
Photo credit: Alex Lake
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