MANIC STREET PREACHERS
Picture the scene. Its dusk and raining heavily, lightning forks in the darkening sky. A lone figure walks, slowly and uncomfortably, towards a church in the distance. As he gets closer he pulls up the collar on his leather jacket to guard against the chill wind and provide some protection from the lashing rain. He looks over his shoulder to see if he is being followed and when he is sure that he is alone, opens the door quietly to the Gothic cathedral and slips in. It takes his eyes a few seconds to adjust to the darkness, and then he sees the confessional box in the corner. Making his way between the pews his confidence drains and he turns to leave. But a last concerted effort carries him on to enter the inner sanctum and unburden his heart.
Through the grill the calming tones of Father Rose welcomes him. How
can I help you my son? he says in his soft Swansea lilt.
We first met in 1991. It was love at first sight. She was not like anyone else I had met. She was brash, arrogant, colourful, exciting, infectious, intelligent, articulate, all the things that other more fashionable ones looked down on then. My every waking minute was filed with thoughts of when I would hear from her again, when I could see her and feel the intimacy only she and I had. I was infatuated.
The first few years passed in an instant and although she sometimes attracted the glances of others, we only had eyes for each other. We had our hard times, especially in 1995 when she lost someone very close. We cried and grieved together and slowly rebuilt our trust in each other until a year later she stepped back into the limelight.
These were heady times, but I started to notice that other were taking an interest in my love. More and more people seemed to find her attractive and wanted to be in her company. At first I was flattered, but as time went on I became jealous. Where had they been in the hard times, the years when she was unfashionable and awkward? It was I that had supported her then and now they wanted to take all the glory. And then Father my love started to turn to resentment. Her star was in the ascendant and she seemed to have little time for old friends like me. And so, Im ashamed to say, I ended our relationship.
At first Im sure she didnt notice as other flocked around her and swore false allegiance. By 2000 she was the belle of the ball and her public appearances brought out thousands to swear false loyalty. But as the years went on these so called friends seemed to depart and their adulation withered on the vine. She had lost the first flushes of youth and many of her admirers left for newer, fresher pastures. I looked on from a distance and felt nothing. Yes, I would occasionally see her and think of the good times we once had, but inside I still felt hurt and scorned.
And then last night I met her again.
I had gone reluctantly, but when she made her entrance it was like the years rolled back and I saw her again as if for the first time. For hours we sang and danced like youngsters and I threw off the shackles of resentment and embraced the moment. It was all over too quickly, but I knew then that the dark clouds in my heart had lifted and
And then he hesitated, as if unable to say the final words.
Go on my son said kindly Father Rose as he felt the emotions
welling up in the stranger.
I had seen, and enjoyed, support act the Joy Formidable when they headlined last years NME Radar Tour. The venue was considerably more intimate that the airline hanger that is Cardiffs Motorpoint Arena, and whilst the set list was virtually the same, with a liberal smattering of singles and tracks from debut CD Roar, they seemed lost in the sheer size of the stage. Matters werent helped that they played in front of a vast black backdrop that seemed to accentuate the mammoth gaps between band members. They are a group still finding their feet and definitely have a lot of promise and will have gained valuable experience from playing in front of such a sizeable audience. However, at present they are best seen at mid size venues where they can interact with the audience and feed off the intimacy that smaller venues bring.
After a short period to take stock, the blackout curtains are removed to reveal a stripped down stage. A few awkwardly positioned mannequins and some neon strip were the only things that caught the eye, apart from Nickys microphone stand with its obligatory feather boas. It had the look and feel of some of the Manic's early gigs at Cardiff University. Confidence in their own ability has allowed them to discard with all the technological gimmickry so beloved by other less talented groups and their only concession are two large video screens either side of the stage for the benefit of those at the back of the cavernous venue.
As the Manics take to the stage, I notice their numbers are augmented by a keyboard player and additional guitarist. The latter bears an uncanny resemblance to Richey Edwards and for a split second I have to look again to make sure it is not the much missed genius. With a brief wave of recognition to the home audience the band crash into Stay Beautiful and in an instant I am transported back twenty years. The sheer anger and ferocity of the song catches me off guard. I momentarily remember the way the band were perceived in their formative years. Clash-clones would be a too strong (if ultimately not unflattering) description as they breathed fire and vitriol onto the British music scene made flabby by years of baggy and Madchester. God it felt good to wallow in the sheer nostalgia you can get from bellowing Why dont you just fuck off! at the top of your voice. It genuinely was a cathartic moment.
And the rest of the evening passed by in a similar vein, from the swirling musical mysticism of Motorcycle Emptiness, the sheer brutality of Faster, the stark beauty in Of Walking Abortions, the irony of Suicide is Painless (given the shadow Richey still inevitably casts over the band), the joy radiating from You Stole the Sun from my Heart, the power and majesty of If You Tolerate This, the pomposity of Masses Against the Classes, the stupidness of Cant Take My Eyes Of You, the balls out punk of Slash and Burn, the anthemic Design for Life, the emotional Everything Must Go, the perfect pop of Youre Love Alone is Not Enough and the rallying cry of the disenfranchised You Love Us.
But if one song sums up my return to the fold, it is the one that started it all for me. The song that was released twenty years ago to this very day, and for me will never be bettered. Ive heard the intro done in many different styles whether it be Baby Love, Sweet Child of Mine, She Sells Sanctuary, Sweet Home Alabama or, as tonight, Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. So when James picked up his guitar emblazoned with the Welsh dragon and slowily ripped out our anthem, Hendrix-like, I knew that only one thing could follow - Motown Junk.
I could have cried.
Heres to the next twenty years, lads. Diolch Yn Fawr I Chi!