Manic Street Preachers: Echo Arena, Liverpool

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Manic Street Preachers (Photo by John Johnson)

Manic Street Preachers (Photo by John Johnson)

With the Manic Street Preachers kicking off the UK wing of their anniversary tour of Everything Must Go at the Echo Arena, Getintothis’ Patrick Clarke books a spot for something special.

There’s often a sense of apprehension approaching the ‘classic album in full’ set, questions naturally asked as to just what the band in question’s motivations are for dredging up their former glories for a crowd of eager revivalists.

Yet the Manic Street Preachers have never been like other bands, neither in their ferocious counter-cultural heyday nor now among the elite of bona-fide modern British legends. Playing Everthing Must Go in full, there’s a sense of something special in the air, a connection with Liverpool that goes beyond just another date on the tour.

With 96 written across their drumkit and the families of the Hillsborough victims offered guestlist entry, the Manics‘ admiration of the city is clearly apparent, Nicky Wire paying tribute to Liverpool for “enriching our culture”, namechecking The Bunnymen to Brookside.

A set of two halves, the group begin with their 1996 classic in full, and sound utterly immense, James Dean Bradfield‘s guitar striking with monumental force through the tracks that made them famous. A Design For Life, their traditional set closer, feels a little out of place now second on the setlist yet still transcends with its Herculean lament, while the album’s title track sweeps with monolithic intent.

In sound the group sound vast, Bradfield‘s guitar’ surging with crisp, titanic depth with huge, vintage vocals to match, and Everything Must Go sounds every ounce the majestic masterpiece of 1996.

An acoustic Bradfield solo of Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky is a highlight of the first half, as is the titanic sweep of Australia, yet as they conclude with a fierce No Surface All Feeling the best is still yet to come.

A brief interval is ended as the frontman once again takes the stage solo, beginning with an acoustic Tsunami, and as his band rejoin him they really hit their stride. Launching into Motorcycle Emptiness, in this writer’s humble opinion perhaps the greatest rock single of all time, the band catapult to phenomenal new heights, while Walk Me To The Bridge soar into a heroic chorus to induce ecstasy in the arena.

Generation Terrorists album track Natwest Barclays Midlands Lloyds is a particular highlight of the latter half, as is Roses In The Hospital, forever an underrated gem. Oft-overlooked single (It’s Not War) Just The End of Love and a cover of  Fiction Factory‘s Feels Like Heaven  are enjoyable, if a slight respire from the euphoria.

Closing with an ear-splitting You Love Us before the phenomenal sweep of If You Tolerate This, it’s in the second half that the Manics have really impressed, if only for the chance to give Bradfield the chance to parade his forever underrated mastery as a guitarist that was always underplayed on Everything Must Go.

In their fourth decade as a band the Manic Street Preachers remain remarkable on stage, resonant beyond the revivalism of the anniversary occasion, and leave the Echo Arena begging for more; having been taken to Merseyside’s heart they remain a national treasure.

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