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Live Review: Manic Street Preachers – 3rd December 2021 – Wembley Arena, London, UK

5 min read
Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers return to London to blow the roof off Wembley Arena with powerful career defining set! @Manics

Saying to someone “I’m off to see a show at Wembley Arena” has always had a certain ring to it. It carries a sense of celebrity. Of success. Of icon. Over the years it has played home to pretty much every legend in the music industry, so every time I go to see a band or artist perform at the venue it always feels uniquely special. Like I am part of something historical. And that was how I felt last night as I attended the latest tour by 90’s Welsh rockers, Manic Street Preachers. Whether it be because I was in such an iconic venue or whether it was because I was seeing a cherished rock act who have maintained their rock legend status over the course of 4 decades – or perhaps it was for both of these reasons.

The Manic Street Preachers are currently celebrating the success of their latest studio album, The Ultra Vivid Lament which was released in September and garnered the three-piece with their 14th album and first Number One charter since 1998’s epic, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours; an achievement front man James Dean Bradfield thanked the crowd for at last night’s show.

This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours was always going to be the record people want to hear songs from. After all, it was the album that truly solidified the Manic Street Preachers as a rock force to be reckoned with. Songs from that 90’s juggernaut felt familiar and refreshed last night sitting beside numbers from the outfit’s latest album, allowing for the night to be drenched in nostalgia and a strong sense of relevance from a band who regularly turn out albums to their enormous fanbase and have long been regarded one of the finest acts to see live.

Having 14 studio albums under their belt over a career that has spanned some 30 years, there was no challenge to fill the set with repertoire hits and newbies to promote from The Ultra Vivid Lament with the crowd going crazy for new numbers Orwellian, with its meaty guitar solo, and album opener Still Snowing in Sapporo getting the crowds stomping stamp of approval; bassist Nicky Wire thanking the crowd for “giving me a reason to get out of my tracksuit” ahead of the latter tracks delivery, and paying tribute to mysteriously fallen former bandmate, Richey Edwards.

“You look good, you sound good, you smell good – do you move good?” Bradfield asked before the band churned through the gritty The Secret He Had Missed for fans who screamed back to the pint-sized rock icon. He may not have a very distinctive look to him; in fact, you may even pass him by in the street and never know it. But that voice! That voice was something else! And while Bradfield and blood-related drummer, Moore may have looked more like the pin up boys of dad rock in their casual attire, tall and lanky bassist Wire added the glam to the outfit; showing off two different looks throughout the night including a white jacked with a golden patchwork as the musician remained alluring behind dark shades.

Throughout the show the band were lit up by an enormous screen that projected images of picturesque landscapes, quotes, waterfalls and videos of the band as a former quartet; prior to founding band mates Richie’s still mysterious disappearance 25 years on.

A cover of The Cults, She Sells Sanctuary – dedicated to the late Steve Brown – settled in nicely amongst the MSP repertoire and seemed a fitting cover and tribute to the producer who shaped the bands 1992 album, Generation Terrorists while La tristesse durera (Scream to a Sigh) lowered the tone of the night with all band members departing the stage to allow Bradfield to bask under the warm, glowing lights of the arena to share an acoustic moment with his devoted fans that, at this point, were quite thankful for the breather and moment to let their pulses settle for a brief moment in an otherwise blood pumping live music experience.

A curfew for noise restrictions being in place was probably a good thing and are likely in place because of shows like these as the crowd were at times almost deafening as they challenged the bands outpouring of 90’s power rock with belting back to some of their favourites when they would appear within the set; the first quarter of the standing area of the venue quickly turning into a head banging mosh-pit quite soon after the first beat from drummer, Sean Moore. Of those were the obvious career notables and tracks from This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. The bands delivery of You Stole the Sun From My Heart was one of the shows obvious standouts with the musical trio engulfed by affection for the Welsh rockers stellar performance of the career notable, as was a perfectly executed offering of signature penning, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next with cannons of streams being shot into the air and creating an overhead hanging paper forest with most being caught up in the venues steel infrastructure; a nightmare I’m sure for the cleaners to discover this morning.

Elsewhere within the set fans lapped up meaty performances of early career success Everything Must Go but the cinematically epic closing of Design For Life reminded us all why Manic Street Preachers have always been strumming to a beat in a lane reserved only for true song writing greats as the audience provided a solid backing vocal to one of the 90’s biggest hits, played perfectly by Bradfield, Wire and Moore.

A perfect night delivered by the perfect masters of mainstream Welsh rock!

Setlist:
Motorcycle Emptiness
Orwellian
Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
The Secret He Had Missed
You Stole the Sun from My Heart
Enola/Alone
Still Snowing in Sapporo
Everything Must Go
Happy Bored Alone
Love’s Sweet Exile
If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
La tristesse durera (Scream to a Sigh) (Acoustic)
She Sells Sanctuary (The Cult cover)
Motown Junk
Afterending
Slash ‘n’ Burn
Tsunami
Complicated Illusions
You Love Us
A Design for Life