Manic Street Preachers, Fat Sam's, Dundee ****
“Two whole years of not going out, and you’re here to have a shitty pint in a plastic cup and watch a shitty band playing,” noted Manic Street Preachers’ James Dean Bradfield with a self-deprecating growl. “We're back!”
They are indeed: back to live concerts and back with their first album in three years, The Ultra Vivid Lament – their first number one in the charts since the moment-defining This is My Truth Tell Me Yours 23 years ago.
The suspicion is that the downsizing of this gig from the Caird Hall was largely because the Welsh trio also had live dates at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall and Glasgow’s Barrowlands in the same week, as their hardcore fans don’t seem to have lost any of their enthusiasm. Whatever the circumstances, it was a rare treat to see a band at home in concert halls play what was essentially a club gig, where the typical volume and intensity of their live show rained down upon a packed crowd.
They played an unfussy, encore-free, anthem-filled 21 song set, which began with the spiky, yearning Motorcycle Emptiness and ended on the symphonic, narcotic elegy of A Design for Life.
Crucially, the best of the new songs stand up in a live setting: Orwellian’s swooning pop soundtrack to information-age dystopia; the yearning rock nostalgia of Still Snowing in Sapporo, where “my optimism resembles a dying friend”; The Secret He Had Missed, complete with drummer Sean Moore’s pounding disco beat and a piano crescendo straight out of Abba’s Waterloo.
Guitarist Nicky Wire recalled the band’s first gig in this venue 29 years ago with possibly internet-researched accuracy. They played 12 songs, he said, including the exemplary hair metal tribute Slash and Burn, which he dedicated to their long-missing fourth member, Richey Edwards. There were diversions into an acoustic From Despair to Where, showing off the power of Bradfield’s voice, and a lovably fanboyish medley of the riff from the Skids’ Into the Valley and Guns n’ Roses’ Sweet Child o’ Mine. It’s good to have them back.
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