Manic Street Preachers - June 4, 2009 - Olympia Theatre, Dublin, Ire
By: Ken McGrath
It’s been a long, long time since Manic Street Preachers emerged from the valleys of Wales all Guns ‘n’ Roses baiting, combats and eyeliner. It’s also been a long time since The Holy Bible. Released in 1994, it’s been both a blessing and a curse, their finest moment and followed soon afterwards by their worst, the point when chief lyricist/icon/inspirational force Richie James Edwards disappeared off the face of the planet. The Manics have moved far from that point, shedding and changing their musical skin and image, growing older, possibly wiser, more content it would seem to no longer slash and burn.
The release this year of new album Journal For Plague Lovers came as a surprise though to many who’d given up hope in the band. A much more rocking and darker affair it came as little surprise that this new found spirit was inspired by Richie, all the lyrics on it were left behind by him and they’ve done them justice.
Upon walking into the Olympia, it’s announced that the Manics will be playing the entire new album, then they’ll take a short break and come back and play the hits. This means that when they’re playing the new stuff, no one’s calling out for their favourite songs. You know exactly how it’s going to go and since Journal… is their best album in years it means that no-one’s pissed off they’re laying it in full. Glimpsed through a fog of thick dry ice that it’s almost impossible to make them out as the tear through “Peeled Apples,” while “Jackie Collins Existential Question Time” with its great chorus is helped along by the packed crowd singing “oh mommy what’s a Sex Pistol?”
The album is played through in order, the kicking “Marlon JD,” “This Joke Sport Severed” and the dark “She Bathed Herself In A Bath Of Bleach” being particular highlights. Even the Nicky Wire sung “William’s Last Words” can’t bring down the mood. Nicky has one of the worst singing voices out there, but you can’t imagine anyone else delivering those words. It’s like he’s talking to Richie when he does it and so it’s accepted. Sometimes the message is more important than the delivery.
After a quick break and they’re back, the room heaving and buzzing in anticipation. A series of ups and downs follow as some of the ‘hits’ they’ve decided to play are a little dubious, but they do open with “Motorcycle Emptiness,” that riff lifting everyone in unison, which is never a bad thing. Pop gem “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough” is a great moment, as is the rarely aired “All Surface, No Feeling.”
Nicky spitting the Orwellian intro to “Faster” gets the old school fans fired up, although disappointingly, it’s the only song from The Holy Bible they play. “Little Baby Nothing,” while good could have been dropped in favour of “Yes” or “She Is Suffering,” which they played last time they were in Dublin. “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” goes over well, as it always does, but it’s never been a favourite. It says a lot that more people go nuts for “You Stole The Sun From My Heart” than do for “Motown Junk.”
Predictably “A Design For Life” brings things to their rapturous conclusion, although there’s something of a bitter taste. Maybe it was expecting too much or that the past simply still dominates certain views of Manic Street Preachers. But this band has so much history and so much of an aura (Richie’s ghost still haunts stage left) that maybe it’s impossible to not be a little disappointed.