Manic Street Preachers – Llanfest: Live review

Manic 1

Welsh legends take fans into the Fourth Dimension at Llangollen International Pavilion

It’s possible to view any live performance in 3D; three separate but intertwined dimensions that give you a genuine feel for the experience and what makes it special. However, tonight was that rare exception; a performance that sent us hurtling into the fourth dimension.

The First Dimension always has to be the artist and there’s no doubt that Manic Street preachers are, as Huw Stephens said in his introduction, “living legends”. Emerging from Blackwood as the perfect antidote to the overblown ‘80’s and the dirge-driven desperation of the early ‘90’s, the band offered a Punk Pandora’s box of cultural references and adrenaline-fuelled songs that charted individual despair and world injustice. They lit a fire in a new generation that still burns and offered an essential alternative to the moribund mainstream.

Dealing with the loss of Richey Edwards was a big enough challenge, but to emerge from it as one of the great bands with an anthem in A Design For Life which, arguably more than any other defined the era, is a serious triumph. Everything Must Go was judged Best British Album and they won Best British Band in the BRITS; going on to achieve Number One singles with If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next and Masses Against The Classes, and album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. Musically, they may have developed and softened some of the serrated edge, but lyrically they retain the ability to hit hard and true. Legends indeed.

The Second Dimension is the performance which is never in doubt with The Manics. Tonight they deliver a career-spanning overview, crowd-pleasing but ever-challenging and varied set. It’s great to see Nicky Wire take to the stage after having to miss the previous evening’s Spanish performance for personal reasons and he seems genuinely moved by the welcome he receives. Motorcycle Emptiness kicks off the evening and sets a standard that never drops with classics such as Everything Must Go, Kevin Carter and Tsunami, as James tells us “a song from the late 90’s which seems a much simpler time now”, faultlessly delivered. The acoustic section sees James Dean Bradfield deliver the reflective This Sullen Welsh Heart and 30 Years War which sounds more relevant now than ever. He informs the crowd that this is his first appearance at the Llangollen Pavilion since he came as a twelve-year-old choirboy so he was “playing catch-up” to those levels all night.

The Third Dimension is the audience, the often-overlooked, but utterly integral aspect of a live show. Tonight arranged in a curious fashion that sees “the posh seats” at the front and the “mosh pit” located behind a barrier to the rear of them, the crowd are on message from the outset. With Welsh flags flying and thousands of hands in the air, songs such as You Stole The Sun From My Heart and If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next become mass sing-alongs to gladden the heart.

Which takes us the Fourth Dimension; that imperceptible aspect of a live performance that is so rare. It occurs when the chemistry between band and audience combines to deliver an experience that ensures the event will live in the heart of both for a long time. A hot summer’s night in Llangollen, a long-established centre of culture, was the ideal setting, along with a huge crowd who were clearly completely up for it and the vibe that came from the stage was that the band were too; it was a gig that seemed to mean so much to both them and the crowd. I don’t know where the band would rate this in their personal hierarchy of performances, but I do know the atmosphere in the crowd was that this was a performance that would stand the test of time. The triumphant delivery of A Design For Life was the perfect closure and set the seal on the perfect evening.

The Manic Street Preachers, legends indeed.

All words by Dave Jennings, Twitter @blackfoxwrexham

Photo credit Craig Colville NWN Media

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