Manic Street Preachers in The Olympia Theatre, Dublin, on Sunday 12th May 2019
Four years ago, Manic Street Preachers came to The Olympia Theatre to celebrate an anniversary – twenty years of ‘The Holy Bible’, arguably their most significant record as a band and one whose power remains undiminished, as uncompromising a listen now as it ever was. In the wake of its 1994 release the band had to come to terms with the disappearance of guitarist Richey Edwards. Commercial success followed with ‘Everything Must Go’ in 1996. A number one record in ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours’ came on its heels two years later. Tonight, it’s the latter record that celebrates a similar anniversary to Edwards’ swansong, although it’s hard to imagine that this album will ever incite as much of a sense of occasion than any of its predecessors.
But a celebration it is nonetheless, and the Manics live, loud and on form is always worth a punt. Notable too about tonight’s show is that it features “the largest congregation of people chanting about cheese in Cornish in Dublin, ever.” This is down to Gwenno, whose ‘Le Kov’ album – recorded entirely in the Cornish language – was one of the low-key highlights of last year. “That’s a really tough song to follow,” she warns, as ABBA’s SOS cuts out and the quartet arrive onstage – her druids, as she calls them.
Gwenno’s investment in the songs and the delivery in her native tongue comes from a place of true passion, an emotive performance illustrated through hand gestures and asides into the album’s themes, and a venue full of freshly-taught Cornish speakers add voice to the rousing finale of Eus Keus?, even if it is only for a fleeting, shared moment.
Nicky Wire, bassist and sole lyricist on ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours’, informs us that there will be “poetic license with the running order” for the album section, and a bit of minor shuffling ensues so that things ultimately finish up with If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next – a nice, big hit single as a reward. I’m Not Working and Be Natural get their first live outings, while certain other tracks haven’t seen an audience in many a year’s gigging.
James Dean Bradfield has brought along the guitars that were used on the recording of the album, an enviable collection of machines, and he puts each through its paces. Despite what you may think of the record, in a live setting Bradfield can tear it up with the best of them, swinging around the place on one foot and surveying the balconies from the front of the monitors while he cuts loose. His bandmates leave him alone for Born A Girl, one of the more striking moments of the night amidst all the brooding and distortion.
The post-album selection takes a couple of unexpected turns with a handful of classics culled from ‘Generation Terrorists’, ‘Gold Against The Soul’, and ‘Everything Must Go’, and Solitude Sometimes Is from 2004’s ‘Lifeblood’ is preceded by am astutely good-humoured chastisement from Bradfield (“Not many of you fuckers bought it“).
Sleepflower takes one of the night’s heavier turns, setting things up nicely for the electric grandeur of Motorcycle Emptiness. You Love Us is dedicated to the gone-never-forgotten Edwards, and A Design For Life rounds things off with a sold-out room in full voice, not even realising that this really is the final call of the night. “Thanks for sticking by us when the albums weren’t so good,” Bradfield says with a smile. ‘Know Your Enemy’ turns twenty in two years’ time. Don’t doubt that The Olympia will be sold-out once again if its deemed worthy of reminiscence. But don’t hold your breath.