Manic Street Preachers – Live Review – York Barbican

Manic Street Preachers York 2019

By @Steve Crabtree

Manic Street Preachers have been an important band for me from the age of 14.  Coming across the video to ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ back in 1992 had me in awe. And I went out to buy Generation Terrorists on cassette later that day.

Ever since then, new songs, albums and tours have been big news for me.

But this tour sees the Manics celebrating the 20th anniversary of their fifth album, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. They re-released the record last year and announced the tour which found itself in York on a Monday evening. I just had to be there.

Manic Street Preachers York 2019

“Beauty and energy”

I remember seeing them tour this album on its original release in Bridlington, and then later in Sheffield in 1998. Two fantastic shows with the intimacy of the Bridlington show making it quite memorable.  So I was hoping Manic Street Preachers would come close to emulating that gig from way back when.  And remarkably, they didn’t let me down.

This Is My Truth had a hard act to follow being the first album from the Manics since the legendary Everything Must Go.  It perhaps hasn’t been revered as much as it should, despite winning British Album of the Year at the Brits (when the award mattered). It’s not the most talked about record that they’ve released, but there’s a huge number of tracks on there that stand the test of time. Tracks that mean a lot to Manic Street Preachers fans.

The gig kicked off with ‘The Everlasting’ before going straight into ‘You Stole The Sun From My Heart’. Some true Manics beauty and energy to open the show.  The first part of the setlist gave us the entire album in track order, albeit with the band’s first number one single ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’ taking the podium spot of final song of the album set. And rightly so.

And although only a few songs in, everyone in the Barbican were enjoying the gig, including the band. The thing you get to love about a Manics gig is the anthemic, grinding guitars that come out of the melancholy melodies. ‘Ready For Drowning’ and ‘You’re Tender and Your Tired’ pushing this out in to our ears with a delicate brashness.

Manic Street Preachers York 2019

“Sounded as good as ever”

Single ‘Tsunami’ sounded as good as I have ever heard it. And the hairs stood up on the back of the neck during a stunning version of ‘Black Dog On My Shoulder‘.

‘Nobody Loved You’ was a sad omission from the set list though. When I bought the CD all those years ago, this was an important track for me. But the band have their reasons for sliding it out of the set.  What did please me immensely was the inclusion of ‘Prologue To History’ in its place.  Originally a b-side to ‘If You Tolerate This…’ but far too good to be a b-side. It’s a fan-favourite, and a stunning song in its own right. Tonight’s live version was as powerful as the studio recording.

I was really enjoying going back over this album again. It brought back good memories and the band were in fine fettle. It was a little bit like being back in the 90s in my brown Airwalks and beige combat pants!

The second half of the 23-song strong set contained a few of the band’s staple hits, and some surprises.  We’d listened to a Manics Spotify playlist on the way to York and we both acknowledged what a good tune ‘Solitude Sometimes Is’ is.  I declared it was a shame they wouldn’t play it at the gig, but they called my bluff and included it in the set.

A raucous rendition of ‘You Love Us’ was touchingly dedicated to Richey Edwards by Nicky Wire. And for “a bit of fun” as James Dean Bradfield described it, we got a cover of Guns ‘n’ Roses’ ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’. That was a treat.

As was ‘Sleepflower’ from the Gold Against The Soul album, which now finds its way on to the live set after years of yearning from hardcore fans.  It’s been worth the wait.

“On fire”

This was my first visit to York Barbican, and it’s a great choice of venue. Medium in size, but compact enough to retain an intimate feel. It’s shaped so you’re close to the front wherever you are. Our seats in the balcony gave us the perfect view. And although we weren’t able to bounce up and down like some of the crowd standing near the front, we didn’t feel out of it whatsoever.  In fact, it was nice to sit back, take in the full goings-on on stage. We were central, and had a great view of James doing his hop-and-spin guitar solos. And the strength that drummer Sean Moore must have in those shoulders is something else. We could clearly see him pounding the life out of his drums, and it brought home just what an incredible drummer he is.

We in the audience loved ‘Your Love Alone Is Not Enough’ and they whizzed through ‘International Blue’ with a shiny zest that the Welsh rockers like to do from time to time.

Tonight’s gig has been the best I’ve seen Manic Street Preachers perform for a few years.  I’ve always enjoyed their concerts when they’ve toured a new album. And as they’ve got older their live show has progressed.  But tonight was like we’d been picked up and thrown back to their pomp.  On my 21st time of watching, Manic Street Preachers were on fire.


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