Richie Ainger catches the Manics live back in 2009.

Manic Street Preachers w/ The Answering Machine – Brighton Dome – 2nd June 2009

This is the fifth time I have seen the Manics in two years and every time they have seemed to be a vibrant and refreshing live band, until this evening. They seemed to be flat onstage. Granted, Nicky Wire was suffering from a slipped disc and couldn’t prowl the stage in his usual manner, but something about their performance was different. This feeling wasn’t aided by their choice of support act, The Answering Machine. No slight on these guys, but they didn’t seem to fill the stage (which is quite a size at the Dome). They tried to interest the crowd, but their style of music, a blend of indie pop and Franz Ferdinand, isn’t something that the middle aged Manics fan (who is still wishing that it was 1994, that The Holy Bible had just been released and that the Manic Street Preachers were at their creative peak) would go for. They tried ‘interesting’ and pretentious stage moves but it just wouldn’t work for them. Maybe playing to a more musically receptive audience in a smaller venue would suit these guys.

This evening, the Manics played two sets. The first was Journal For Plagued Lovers in full, whilst the second was a greatest hits set. I hadn’t had time to familiarise myself with the new album, but on first impressions I wasn’t taken by it. I was hoping a live rendition would help sway me. But it didn’t. I struggle to see why the Manics thought it was relevant to release this. Lyrically, it is of a high standard as you’d expect from Mr Edwards, but musically the Manics have tried to reach the heights of The Holy Bible and failed quite dismally. It sounds bloated and almost Foo Fighters-esque, hollow guitars with no depth behind them. I got restless during JFPL as parts of it were embarrassing to watch. The set started strongly with ‘Peeled Apples’ and ‘Jackie Collins Existential Question Time’, but it soon faded with ‘She Bathed Herself In A Bath Of Bleach’. The set never picked again after this song and it seemed to be lifeless, as if the Manics were just going through the motions.

The greatest hits set injected a little life into floundering gig, unfortunately some of the song selections baffled me. JFPL is the ‘follow up’ to The Holy Bible. I expected there to a Bible heavy set, but only Faster got an airing. ‘All Surface, No Feeling’, ‘Ocean Spray’ and ‘Tsunami’ could have been replaced for stronger songs. The set grew stronger after this but the damage had already been done with the lacklustre Journal For Plagued Lovers set. ‘Stop In The Name Of Love’ into ‘Motown Junk’ got the crowd moving for the finale of ‘You Love Us’ and finally ‘A Design For Life’.

During the whole evening, I couldn’t help but feel that the Manic Street Preachers were ‘cashing’ in on Richy. They have had this material a long time and choosing a more suitable time (maybe the tenth anniversary of The Bible?) to release it may have been appropriate. But to tour it badly, whilst that Jennie Saville painting stared out at the doting crowd who have moved on with the band over the last 15 years, disappointed me a lot. Relying on lyrics from a man who has been missing for the best part of 15 years to get an ailing band restarted should tell the Manics something about their situation now.


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