I don’t believe in astrology. And yet, I exhibit all the qualities of a stereotypical Libra: I weigh up all sides of an argument, find it hard to make decisions and always, always see the other person’s point of view.

The Manic Street Preachers are very much a Marmite band: people either hate them with a vengeance or love them with a passion. Me, I can take them or leave them. I like a few of their songs very much and others do nothing for me. Perhaps it this that makes tonight’s show the proverbial game of two halves, but I’m not so sure.2015-05-30 21.02.55

Playing one of your albums in its entirety has become a thing now. This is the twentieth anniversary of the band’s 1994 album, The Holy Bible and so they play it all. The Holy Bible is not an easy listen; themes include prostitution, the Holocaust and suicide. Band member Richey Edwards was responsible for most of the album’s lyrical content and was in a deep depression at the time he wrote it. Edwards would later disappear and is now presumed dead.

The Manic Street Preachers make a big sound for three people and are nothing if not passionately committed to their performance. Drummer Sean Moore does his job without showing off; bassist Nicky Wire plays the rock star and has Pete Townsend’s scissor kicks and jumps down to a tee; James Dean Bradfield is a great rhythm guitarist. His solos, however, are more often than not reminiscent of the squally racket made by teenage wannabe rock stars in their first band.2015-05-30 22.08.32

The gig is a sell out so there are nearly three thousand people here who are presumably very much in the pro MSP camp. Sitting in the front of the balcony (the Grand Circle if we want to be posh) I have a great view of both the band and the standing audience below. The audience respond enthusiastically to the first few songs but while their enthusiasm never wanes entirely, it does diminish over the course of the album. Perhaps sensing this, Bradfield thanks us for our patience and promises us some songs that we can actually dance to in the second half. Things do pick up though for the last song P.C.P.

After a ten minute break, the band return to the stage supplemented by keyboards and an additional guitarist. The MSPs are at their best when they produce Big Singalong Tunes and the second half of the gig is bursting with those.Highlights include Motorcycle Emptiness, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next – possibly only the Manics could produce a catchy song about institutional child abuse – You Stole The Sun From My Heart and You Love Us which all have the audience bouncing. They finish with what has become their signature song, Design For Life. Bradfield hardly needs to bother with the vocals as the audience sings it for him. And that’s it. No encore, but then they couldn’t follow Design For Life anyway.

So, all in all a very good night. I’m still in two minds about The Manic Street Preachers but then again, I’m still a Libra.

John Scott

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