(Planet Me)
Thursday, April 24, 2014
 
MANIC STREET PREACHERS London Brixton Academy 12 April 14
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41 times may be too many times. Especially when they never change. As with every Manics setlist for the past 16 years, it's a predictable row of hit singles, three songs from the new record, an acoustic section, and two old album tracks to please the faithful. It's pretty much the same as every Manics setlist I've seen since 1998. It's boring. It's predictable. And it always ends with “A Design For Life.” Sure, it's a passionate and enjoyable two hours from a band that were briefly enormous, but have now started to fade to irrelevancy. And like many of their contemporaries, ignore huge chunks of their history in an attempt to maintain the illusion of brilliance.

The Manic Street Preachers are a band of too many souls : at any given point, you might be plunged into a gutless recreation of token fan favourites from “The Holy Bible”, or diverted left into the lush and exhausted landlines of their more recent material. Fan reaction may be gushing – after all, it's not very often some of these songs get played, but really, after 41 shows and 22 years and 2 greatest hits albums and 12 albums, The Manics have become predictable. There's the same set of overexposed old hits - “You Stole The Sun”, “Tsunami”, “If You Tolerate This”, “Everything Must Go”, “A Design For Life” are all good songs, made with passion and fire and intelligence, but, But, BUT – every single show they do? It's like watching the Welsh Rolling Stones. This is the fate that The Clash might have had, playing mid afternoon in a sunny field to bored 20 somethings waiting for Keane or The White Stripes. Also, it's not 1992 anymore, so we have to live in the here and the now, and whilst evolution is the best thing – for nothing is as dull as a band that stays still forever – and I'm looking at you AC/DC – a dull predictability is somewhat boring. This is a band I would stay up all night for, drive across Europe for, see a whole tour in a row for, one that in 2009 I felt a keen sense of burnout, that perhaps the Manics had started to stop questioning, stopped searching, and instead became settled in their position, easing into a state of perpetual unhappiness, perpetual questioning and yet also reaping less artistic rewards with each, slightly less-good-than-the-one-before-it album, and each equally nostalgic setlist that is at least – in the main – over 15 years ago. Where for example,is the later material? Found That Soul? Ocean Spray? Miss Europa Disco Dancer? 1985? I'm Just A Patsy? Marlon JD? Autumnsong? Indian Summer? Postcards From A Young Man? …. or the earlier stuff? Where's Faster? Roses In The Hospital? Kevin Carter? Little Baby Nothing? From Despair To Where?

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What also shocks is how passionless renditions of “Die In The Summertime” and “Archives Of Pain” are : despite a heavy twopronged guitar assault, these songs are executed without conviction. They sound accurate, but without bite. Like staring into the bored eyes of an actor that has made two too many “Die Hard” films : the Manics are here, but are they HERE? It may be Manic Street Preachers, but its not the Manic Street Preachers the way they used to be. “The Holy Bible” is a great album, but also an albatross that sits round their necks, a shadow burned into the wall of what they used to be that can never be removed from memory. These songs as well, seem like tokenistic fan service to please some (every other song, bar two, not from the new record is an old hit single). In this day and age – where the population of the UK is seemingly under siege from its own inner enemy, the economy – where's the passion, the justice, the eloquence of fury at the inequality in this world? Three songs off the new, yet to be released album “Futurology” bode astonishingly well, but a first glance could fool me.

In this context, last years resigned, disappointing, apathetic “Rewind The Film”, takes a new poignancy, - but is still the sound of surrender. Accompanied by footage of the eviscerated and dying Welsh mining towns, the tragedy the newer songs address is that of a society that has its heart ripped out, where a community now consists of old people – the young having fled to big cities just to eat and work – and where this world is not, ever, content just to let some things be : a constant war of attrition between millions of decent people, and a smaller core of powerful and rich who think nothing of destroying a town and closing its industry to make a balance sheet look good so they can buy a flat in London that costs a million pounds. The risk though, is that of the rock equivalent of Grandpa Simpsons, old men yelling at clouds and tilting at windmills, aiming at undefeatable foes, crying loudly for a world that cannot exist again. Progress! They claim. The virus that is progress. And a in a new world of understanding, nothing changed at all, and we still need to sleep and eat and work. And we need our dreams. But the Manics are not a band of dreams anymore. They have become, over time, just another damn good rock band.

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- If You Tolerate This
– Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
- No Surface All Feeling
– It's Not War, Just The End Of Love
– Europa
– Stay Beautiful
– You Stole The Sun
– Rewind The Film
– Die In The Summertime
– Everything Must Go
– Enola / Alone
– Motorcycle Emptiness
– This Is yesterday
– La Tristesse Durera
– This Sullen Welsh Heart
– Archives Of Pain
– Futurology
– The Masses Against The Classes
– You Love Us
– Tsunami
– Show Me The Wonder
– Lets Go To War
– Motown Junk
– A Design For Life -

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