Manic Street Preachers performed their classic record The Holy Bible to mark its 20th anniversary at Manchester’s Albert Hall last night. Review and pictures by David Jackson
Two decades on from its 1994 release, The Holy Bible by Manic Street Preachers is a classic, lauded by critics and fans alike. A powerful, bleak, nihilistic album, the record’s lyrics cover anorexia, serial killers, the holocaust, fascism and self-abuse while, musically, this was the band at its loudest, angriest and fastest.
Since its release, most of tracks have cropped up in the Manics’ live set, with the likes of ‘Faster’ regarded as a regular. However, before this month it had never been played in its entirety. When the Manics announced their intention to do so, tickets sold out in minutes.
There was a huge question mark over whether the intensity of The Holy Bible could be recreated live, and even whether the band would want to revisit such a difficult period of their past, which saw the disappearance of guitarist Richey Edwards less than six months after the release of the album.
Wednesday’s gig at the Albert Hall in Manchester was the first of two nights at the venue. Their set comprised of two halves, with a glorious romp through a mixture of past classics, B-sides and songs from their latest LP Futurology following The Holy Bible playback.
In keeping with the military dress code from two decades ago, the stage was covered in camouflage netting and when guitarist James Dean Bradfield, bassist Nicky Wire and drummer Sean Moore walked on stage, they’d also opted for similar military chic.
Lost amid a stage flooded with smoke and bathed in red lights, the trio opened with ‘Yes’ before heading immediately into ‘Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit’sworldwouldfallapart’ with only the latter’s spoken word TV trailer intro between the two.
While there was a pressure on all three to perform, many eyes were on frontman Bradfield, to see whether 20 years on, he could still cram a staggering number of syllables and words into short verses and have a guitar sound to match. Thankfully, he was spot on – with ‘Of Walking Abortion”s brutal distortion soon after matched with the dark, menacing pace of ‘Archives of Pain’.
During the first half of the set, there was little crowd interaction. Bradfield muttered acknowledgement when he forgot to swap guitars ahead of ‘4st 7lb’ with Wire counting in German, admitting he’s more miserable now than he’s ever been and later dedicating the album and gig to Edwards.
‘This Is Yesterday’ provided a light slower-paced relief to proceedings mid while ‘The Intense Humming of Evil’’s shuddering bass lines and menacing backing track was among the highlights of the first half which was brought to a close with ‘PCP’ played at breakneck speed.
After a short interlude, the band returned, bolstered by a touring guitarist and keyboard player to run through classics including ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ and ‘You Love Us’ (which was preceded by a few bars of Van Halen’s classic ‘Ain’t Talkin Bout Love’).
Costume changes aside, Bradfield and Wire were visually more at ease for part two, both chatting more with the bassist scissor-kicking his way around the stage while waiting a sailor’s cap. The band closed with the anthemic ‘A Design For Life’, which midway through saw Bradfield stand motionless at the front of the stage as a couple of thousand fans sang back at him.
Successful second half aside, the night was all about The Holy Bible which sounded as perfect as any classic album could 20 years on from its release.
Tickets for December’s remaining Holy Bible shows are sold out, while tickets for next year’s shows go on sale on Friday. For details visit www.manicstreetpreachers.com/events
Manic Street Preachers played:
Of Walking Abortion
She Is Suffering
Archives of Pain
This Is Yesterday
Die in the Summertime
The Intense Humming of Evil
You Stole the Sun From My Heart
Dreaming a City (Hughesovka)
Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
Walk Me to the Bridge
You Love Us
A Design for Life