Manic Street Preachers – Live Review – York Barbican

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By Alex Hoggard, October 2021

It is only four weeks since Manic Street Preachers last played in Yorkshire, at Halifax’s Piece Hall, but a lot has happened to the band in that short timeframe. Latest album The Ultra Vivid Lament shot to Number One the week of its release, they played two huge Cardiff Arena gigs benefitting the NHS, and the start of The Ultra Vivid Lament Tour meant the band were arriving in York riding a wave of momentum.

The high interest in the gig was evidenced by the line of fans queuing round the block of York’s Barbican long before the doors opened at 7pm. Hull six-piece Low Hummer provided support and captivated the audience with tracks from their debut album Modern Tricks For Living. Frontman Dan Mawer’s energetic performance demonstrated why they are so highly rated.

The Manics took to the stage shortly after 9pm, with lead vocalist and guitarist James Dean Bradfield greeting the crowd with “Good evening, York – it’s been a while!” before blasting into ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’, which was welcomed with loud cheering as soon as the iconic riff was heard. Lead single from The Ultra Vivid Lament, the melodic ‘Orwellian’, was the first of six songs from the new album to be given an outing through the evening. The 2007 hit ‘Your Love Alone Is Not Enough’ was the third song to be played, and another early chance for the crowd to warm up their voices.

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“Powerful display”

Early in the set, Bradfield announced that “it feels like it’s been a while since we’ve been here, but in time-honoured rock and roll fashion, we loved playing here so much last time we had to come back!”

Continuing the strong start, ‘You Stole the Sun From My Heart’ gave the audience yet another opportunity to sing along enthusiastically. Bassist Nicky Wire, behind his trademark sunglasses, introduced new song ‘Still Snowing in Sapporo’ as a song written about the band’s time in Japan in the early 90s, when it was “the four of us against the world”.

A fantastic performance of ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’ further lifted the noise levels in the venue, before Bradfield was given the stage to himself to perform an acoustic version of ‘From Despair to Where’. A cover of the Guns N’ Roses song ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ further helped show Bradfield’s ability with both the guitar and vocals, while drummer Sean Moore was giving a typically powerful display towards the back of the stage.

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“Vocal response”

Wire again spoke to the crowd, telling them the story of their first visit to York thirty years ago to play at the University, joking that, “there was a lot of leopard print on show that night, mostly from us as there was hardly anyone in the audience!” The size of the crowd in attendance at The Barbican proof of how far the band has come since that University gig.

Towards the back half of the evening, the band showcased classics from their debut album Generation Terrorists, with ‘Slash ‘n’ Burn’, ‘Spectators of Suicide’ and ‘You Love Us’ all being well received, with the latter getting a typically vocal response from the crowd.

The band closed with a lively rendition of 1996 single ‘A Design for Life’, giving the audience one last chance to sing at the top of their voices, before Bradfield thanked them for their support over the years and bid goodnight. The Manics left the stage to much adoration, and the crowd left happy after an electrifying performance.

Images: Frank Ralph


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