Manics in Germany, 3/11/2002 by James Furner

The German leg of a greatest hits tour. Why, it must be the Manic Street Preachers. R*E*P*E*A*T readers may be aware of Berlin, Munich and Dusseldorf – if not in a musical context – but tonight the manics play their other German date in the rather non-descript town of Offenbach. It’s near the more exciting Frankfurt, although atmospherically the streets borrow rather more from the latter’s airport lounge.

Inside it’s a different matter, for the venue is a theatre on Goethestrasse. The stage is covered with a brown carpet and strange symmetrical gold-painted sculpture models oversee all parts of the circular arena. With only one leg one cannot blame them for not dancing. The Two-Legged Ones know who they are.

Rudeness is unbecoming so I won’t dwell too long on Readymade, the local support act. They mention in the course of their set that due to all the people driving driving driving on the Autobahn they only arrived 20 minutes ago but for all I care the traffic could have been worse. Politely then, they sing in English and their catchiest song is called „the day we killed love“ from the new album The Feeling Modified.

Shortly after nine on come James (suited in black), Nicky (suited in red), a baseball cap (Seaned) and a keyboardist obscured from view due to our intimacy with the right speaker. Playing is Bowie’s „Speed of Life“ and speed is the word as they launch into Motorcycle Emptiness. On record Motorcycle Emptiness is just as orchestral and puffed-up as A Design for Life, but whilst A Design for Life is still given a serene, shades for Nicky end of the set dignity Motorcycle Emptiness is gruffed out. The first part of the set is solid rather than outstanding but for this we have Tsunami and You Stole the Sun from my Heart out of the way. Unfortunately There by the Grace of God was so short and its performance so unremarkable that I almost forgot it. What happened to Masses against the Classes?

However, this is just about the only set list complaint to be made. Revol snarls and Faster has all and more of the ferocity of the recording. It’s no accident that, played one after the other, they form one of the best parts of the gig, since James often either can’t or won’t draw out words to their full length and this is obligatory when they are piled so densely one on top of the other. The downside is that I can’t imagine anyone understanding any more of the lyrics than they already knew. The exception to this staccato treatment is Suicide is Painless, the song which James enthuses with most emotion. Together with Little Baby Nothing it takes the place of the acoustic interludes of the past. The other great surprise was playing 3 angry songs from Gold Against the Soul and only one from Know your Enemy. A piercing Slash n Burn later made it clear that the enemy, far from being forgotten, remains as loathsome as ever.

Banter with the crowd wasn’t a great success. Tonight this was James‘ sole responsibility, for Nicky – looking a bit full in the face as my German friend kindly put it – didn’t say anything, poetic or otherwise. Suicide is Painless is introduced as a „pretty fucking weird song“ that’s „liked by Germans a lot“ which „makes you pretty fucking weird“. Hmm. As if Motown Junk and the others were thoroughly normal. Must be meant as a compliment then. Of course, it’s possible that the crowd of about 1,500 in a venue holding 2,000 with their reserved response to the songs didn’t do enough to provoke the band into something more. (Before you think it, not necessary German behaviour, crowds on the recent Tocotronic tour went satisfyingly berserk.) It’s tempting to explain the lack of movement by the fact that the crowd were actually quite old. But even (especially?) the old can trade remarks and the only attempt at that was a request for The Everlasting.

Set list (roughly) – motorcycle emptiness, you stole the sun from my heart, there by the grace of god, everything must go, from despair to where, tsunami, kevin carter, ocean spray, revol, faster, life becoming a landslide, motown junk, little baby nothing, suicide is painless, roses in the hospital, slash n burn, you love us, the everlasting, a design for life, if you tolerate this your children will be next