Thursday, 3 October 2013

live review: Manic Street Preachers, Public Service Broadcasting @ Barrowlands, 29th September

With prop televisions screening cut-and-paste newsreel and a sound that marries krautrock jams with clipped RP samples, Public Service Broadcasting’s high-concept, wartime arts-and-Krafts-werk schtick sees this evening off to a spiffing start. Clipped talk of planes, trains and automobiles is reflected in the dynamic momentum of tracks like Signal 30 (invigoratingly noisy), Theme from PSB (more playful, with banjo augmenting the various electronics) and other picks from their archive-raiding debut – the title of which (Inform – Educate – Entertain) could stand as a manifesto for tonight’s headliners.

Indeed, James Dean Bradfield makes it clear that information and education still spur Manic Street Preachers 21 years after their debut’s righteous, erudite bravado. “I wish a younger band would try and write a lyric like this,” he bristles, “the lazy fucking gap year bastards…”, introducing a song (30-Year War) that references the Battle of Orgreave, L.S. Lowry and “the endless parade of old Etonian scum [that] line the front benches” – proof that while Rewind the Film may be their acoustic album, it hasn’t quietened their political ire.

Said album furnishes their set with another five tracks, from single Show Me the Wonder (dedicated to tonight’s crowd for making “a Sunday feel like a Saturday”) to the folky feel of This Sullen Welsh Heart. The latter forms part of Bradfield’s customary mid-set solo section, which culminates in The Everlasting – sung back in full, dodgy pronunciation and all. With their other millennial hits also accounted for (Tsunami, You Stole the Sun, If You Tolerate This), this alternation between unplugged and commercial-peak anthems risks overlooking other (often more interesting) corners of their discography, with whole albums unrepresented and others given only cursory visitations.

But if the song choices seem uninspired it’s only in comparison to past visits – and in terms of execution, there’s little to criticise. Furthermore, although loaded with songs from the softer end of their output, they keep their big guns close at hand: the iconic riff of Motorcycle Emptiness opens proceedings to ballistic effect; sole Holy Bible-offering Revol forms a fitting Richey-tribute; while Motown Junk sounds as fiery and fresh as ever. But some of the loudest cheers of the night come from “fuck-up of fashion” Nicky Wire’s announcement that they’ve already got the Barrowlands booked for April next year, coinciding with ready-to-go 12th album Futurology. Judging by the high-emotion of finale Design for Life, there’ll be more than a few here choosing to repeat the experience.

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