International Blue: Manic Street Preachers

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The stage darkens and the show starts with a short video of a young Asian woman in warrior dress, preparing for battle, Japanese steel sword, perhaps, at her side. A battle cry for our times. Woman under threat. Children under threat. The planet itself under threat.
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 ……….CULTURE SUCKS DOWN WORDS
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A recent media comment stated the Manic Street Preachers were enjoying an Indian summer in their careers unlike many of their peers from the 1990s. So very true. They seem to keep on going in an era dominated by nostalgia and a lack of new music from what was once an explosively creative independent music scene in Britain back then. Obviously other types of music have taken over for younger generations, but on the birthday of Shakespeare, and St George’s Day, they kicked off their arena tour, like a match winning goal, at Newcastle Metro Arena, and looked to further secure their place as National Treasures with the promise of tunes for many a season to come.
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A 23 song setlist on this Monday 23rd April  (“Thanks for coming out on a school night” quipped singer James Dean Bradfield) saw them merging old and new with their 13th album Resistance is Futile, proving that their song writing prowess is as strong and honed and tuneful as ever. It’s actually like seeing your old school mates – steadfast Sean Moore on drums and the still scissor jumping, military jacket wearing, brilliant lyric writing empresario Nicky Wire on guitar. There was ofcourse the gazelle in the room in the invisible presence of guitarist Richey Edwards, who disappeared from view on the eve of their American tour in 1995, whereabouts still unknown. In another cosmic numerological twist, it’s also 23 years since he disappeared. As his former schoolmates age surprisingly gracefully he will be forever young, and the arena really comes alive when Richey- era songs “You Love Us”, ” Motorcycle Emptiness” and “Slash n Burn” are accompanied by breathtaking backdrops of him in all his angst filled glory, interspersed with pictures of Marilyn Monroe, a pastiche of similar lost loveliness. His lyrics and ethos are stamped in dramatic visuals throughout the almost two hour show.
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 ……..THIS WONDERFUL WORLD OF PURCHASE POWER
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Inspired by1970s San Francisco elevator music, “Horses Under Starlight” made a surprise live debut with a swoony Burt Bacharach style trumpet, transporting us even further back to the heady days of the flowery 1960s, and another live rarity “4 Ever Delayed”. Rare album songs, B sides and acoustic interludes contributed to possibly the best Manics setlist ever, with six new songs being a particular highlight, fairly rare in a band with such a canon and youthful zenith to live up to. Older classics “Let Robeson Sing”, “Kevin Carter” and new song “Dylan and Caitlin” capture what they do best, merging complex political and literary themes into short bursts of arena pop magic. Intelligence still lives and breathes in a dumbed down excuse for culture.
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………LIVING LIFE LIKE A COMATOSE
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As a hugely successful group there is obviously less of the angst ridden working class anger they once had as snarky outsiders, yet they fuse the past and present with kudos and credibility, like welders creating sparks by searing iron into something deeply wrought and artistically meaningful, manifested most profoundly in the euphoric closer “Design For Life”. Perhaps that’s the secret of their success: they never really left their roots, unlike many another casualty in their precarious industry.
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Even the blue and gold sparkly foil that shoots out from cannons reminds you of from where they came, and their Welsh roots.
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There’s glitter in them there hills.
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Words and Montages: Claire Palmer
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