If there’s one place to communicate to the masses it’s Leeds’s Arena, tonight with its bug-eyed exterior decked out in the red, white and green of the Blackwood band’s native Wales. It may not be full to the gunnels, but the greatest hits set James Dean Bradfield and co. present still draws a formidable crowd.
Whoever says the pop protest is dead clearly hasn’t come across the Manic Street Preachers, whose every song – even sedate moments from last year’s Rewind the Film – comes front loaded with meaning. The acoustic guitars and brass of ’30 Year War’ plod to an almost Mumford-like pace, though lyrically the track pulls no punches with its anti-Thatcher message, and eye-opening miners’ strike footage beams to the back of the stage.
The anti-capitalism of ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’, the anti-war sentiment of ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’, and the class divide baiting ‘A Design For Life’ all feature in the retrospective show.
With age comes a more distinguished radicalism – we can’t all be daubing empowering slogans on our chests with lipstick – and instead it’s left up to a series of video vignettes to carry the politics of the songs being played out. Footage of beer and bingo being enjoyed in a social club feels especially poignant in light of Grant Shapps’ recent gaffe.
Two cuts from 12th album Futurology receive live debuts and suggest a return to a more ‘classic’ Manics sound, away from the folk rock influences of the previous record. The title track carries brash classic rock guitars, and ‘Europa Geht Durch Mich’ doesn’t shy from its pro-European stance, enlisting the help of German actress Nina Hoss to sing verse in her mother tongue. It’s suitably krautrock inspired; a relentlessly stomping beat ensnared in swells of synth noise.
Nicky Wire struggles with the language: “Danke mein zehr...beautiful Leeds people!”
Gig date: March 28