electric cherry blossom
electric cherry blossom

Manic Street Preachers
supported by Gruff Ryhs

International Treasure
Studio Coast, Shin Kiba, Chiba ~ Japan

Thursday May 17th & Friday May 18th

James Dean of the music scene...

Twenty years ago in, essentially the ground floor of, a residential house on a busy road that lead to Coventry City Center or if you were escaping ~ Rugby, I first saw the Manic Street Preachers. I’d gone because `Motown Junk` sounded brilliant, they were Welsh and options in Coventry on any given night were limited when Terry Hall was out of town. The performance was energetic, interesting and honest, however, the strongest emotional flowing from the band in waves was that they cared ”“ cared about the music they made and cared about what their music was saying. The music press at the time waxed non-lyrically that the Manics amounted to no more than bold slogans, heavy eyeliner and brash, bloody gimmicks ~ they clearly weren’t listening.

Not quite half way around the world, from that first encounter the Manic Street Preachers are touring their accumulated single releases from last years `National Treasures`. Over two nights all 38 tracks from the double album plus `New Art Riot` and `Suicide Alley` will be played in non chronological order, with no advance listing, the first evening is a bit of a Christmas morning rammed to the fairy with sensationally wrapped musical gifts awaiting a frenzy of activity as they are reveled.

stay beautiful

Gruff Ryhs is on stage for the briefest of time, I am loathed to dismiss this talented and endearing artist with just a few thrown in lines, but for brevity sake it has to be so. Charming and whimsically delivered a largely acoustic set assisted by a record player, metronome and life-vest, Gruff’s set, combined humorously his music and what can be best described as performance art. Deylwyr pleserus Gruff.

The cherry blossom tree lined stage is revealed, the feather boa’s on Nicky Wire’s mic stand flutter and twist in the air, the myriad sparkles of the giant mirror ball bounce off a framed picture of Richey Edwards and highlight the double Y Ddraig Goch. The opening chords are momentarily drowned out as the crowd cheers and screams “Culture sucks down words Itemise loathing and feed yourself smiles” ~ ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ is an opening tune perfected, especially here in Tokyo, the cavernous operatic sensuality of it’s music and lyrics of alienation, loneliness and the futility of escapism via consumerism play out like an autobiography for our generation. An agreeable ‘Your Love Alone’, an endearing ‘Ocean Spray’ and Sean Moore proving the heartbeat, as always for the band, in powerhouse mode for ‘Australia’.

electric cherry blossom

“It’s 20 years this week since we played Club Citta, those were the fucking days when I didn’t have to worry about my knees, my back, the drinking” laments Nicky before washing away any thoughts of our advancing years with ‘Love Sweet Exile’ and a beautiful ‘From to Despair to Where’. The audience ignoring the bar and sways, sings and screams along to ‘The Everlasting’, ‘Empty Souls’ and ‘Revol’. The stage darkens, in beams of white light and the pink glow from illuminated trees James Dean Bradford: solo and acoustic delivers a flawless, heart-breakingly enchanting ‘Further Away’. James really is beyond incredible, singing, playing and bouncing across the stage for near on two hours solid he even covers both parts in the duets ”“ I am pretty sure he dons tights, a cape and fights crime in the wee small hours too.

Still preaching...

‘Little Baby Nothing’ and ‘Motown Junk’ turn in to the most congenial yet emotion sing a long as the crowd wind themselves up to into a frenzy “nihilistically disillusioned in middle age” wrote Philip Larkin, well maybe, just not at this moment plus we get to continue this ravishing, evocative and dynamic journey through our life’s soundtrack tomorrow.

We are back at Studio Coast, a bit of an earthquake being the only moment of note in a long subway journey of black windows and neon fireworks. Gruff once again imaginatively and delightfully entertains and it is with regret that he his time is so short.

It’s pretty clear starting with ‘You Love Us’ was going to take the roof off and it did. Vibrant as fresh nail polish its sparkles with a smoothness that defines the point in their musical diary it took place, it is lyrically more Axl Rose than Primo Levi but don’t let that fool you this is a slick bombastic, cutting satire on the disingenuous press that were then feeding off the Manic’s growing popularity.
It is quite possibly nearly 20 years since I heard this live, “Its an old bitch” says Nicky “…called ‘New Art Riot’” still sounds like a decent bit of raucous punk rock, more polished than I recall but it always was the less tasty appetizer to the later gratifying banquet of ‘Motown Junk’. Gruff returns to a warm, enthusiastic response, the accumulated talent on stage serving us an amazing ‘Let Robeson Sing’

what is this thing?

You should always keep the ‘Fuck Off’ in songs ~ the entire audience agrees like a rabid rally of fanatics jacked up on something not quite legal we’re shaking our fists get to it boys “Don’t wanna see your face Don’t wanna hear your voice Why don’t you just …” It’s lame of me to say this about ‘Stay Beautiful’ not because its not true, but every line in this song drips and slides with disgust and contempt ~ you have to love the tangible relish taken in every bite of the malice. Again the crowd is struck shocked, ‘PCP’ (yes it was a single double A side with ‘Faster’) unexpectedly gifted to us deliciously by James, solo and acoustic. We hardly have time to take in what is happening and we are off again Nicky and Sean back on stage ‘You Stole The Sun From My Heart’, ‘So Why So Sad’ and a 2,000 strong backing group on ‘The Masses Against the Classes’

The generated heat is claw-ring but not one give it more than a passing thought we are here at tonight’s twenty first track, the forty second over two nights, we have quite literately cleaned up. And as the pounding beat of ‘A Design for Life’ fades in our ears the house lights are on and the bar beckons our sung horse throats. The Manic Street Preachers, playing this overwhelmingly diverse catalog, have awarded us an opportunity to re-evaluate this music we have grown with in some cases musically and lyrically but mostly emotionally and as I look at the framed picture on stage I know there are some things you can never forget no matter how painful, they are just to special, to precious, to full of passion and heart to ever let go of and I leave the final words to one such soul “We pride ourselves in giving a good rave” Richey Edwards.

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