Passion of the jukebox radicals
Thomas H Green reviews the Manic Street Preachers at the Brighton Centre in the Daily Telegraph
President Richard Nixon was a paradox, a man who wanted desperately to be remembered by posterity for his political achievements but whose name became forever synonymous with sinister corruption.
Oliver Stone's 1995 film Nixon spent more than three hours attempting to reveal the heart and hurt of Nixon's emotional contradictions. It is a measure of the Manic Street Preachers' skill as songwriters that their recent single, the startlingly affecting and melancholy The Love of Richard Nixon, does the same in just over three minutes.
On the opening night of the tour promoting the new Lifeblood album, the Brighton crowd swayed along to the live rendition by Wales's bestselling rock act of the 1990s, James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore.
The first song in the set, however, was the urgent new number 1985, accompanied by images of Margaret Thatcher and Torvill & Dean on three huge screens behind the group.
The Manics are a contradictory band. Their sloganeering and constant references to historical radicalism, which take in anything from the Spanish Civil War to the fate of the welfare state, should sit uneasily in a chart rock format, yet Bradfield fires out every lyric with the passion of a young Paul Weller in his Jam days.
Their plaintive angst may seem more suited to a troubled teenager than three settled men in their thirties but, unlike the post-Achtung Baby U2, the band have never embraced post-modernism, they've never popped the bubble of their earnest mystique.
All dressed in black with white instruments, and featuring an additional guitarist and keyboard player, the Manics revelled in a back catalogue that has more jukebox potential than one might imagine. Chart-toppers such as the epic If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next and A Design for Life sat beside darker material from the gruelling Holy Bible album, recently given a 10th anniversary re-release.
Furious punk numbers such as You Love Us, from the group's earliest incarnation, were welcomed with uproar from the crowd. Halfway through the set, as Manics tradition dictates, bassist Wire changed into a skirt emblazoned with the Welsh flag.
There was no encore, but then there didn't seem to be any need for
one. The Manic Street Preachers may have finally reached rock-band middle
age, but they have not relaxed their dynamic agenda one iota.
Opening night for the Lifeblood tour in Brighton: After a video montage, the band played the following set:
Manics Belfast Waterfront Hall: Setlist