Barrowland Ballroom Reviews 

Manic Street Preachers 

12 December 1998

 The Manics are no longer ours. No, instead the Manics are owned by people that think their first LP was "Everything Must Go" and that it's cool to hold lighters aloft during Motorcycle Emptiness (which they obviously think is a new number.) Now whilst I'm no huge indie elitist snob ("The Manics are rubbish now - I saw them before they formed, you know..."), I find it hard to get excited about a band whose live show has transformed into a mainstream-pleasing stadium spectacle. And on the basis of tonight's spectacle, the Manics are the new Queen. The merchandise stall is even selling Manics' mugs, for crying out loud (so that you can console your alienation and despair with a nice cup of Horlicks, presumably).

Not only mainstream, but predictable. Perhaps I overdosed on them during the Everything Must Go tour last year, but little imagination and true passion seems to have gone into proceedings. So James spins around, video screens display poetic sound bites, the crowd sings along to "Design For Life" like it's a terrace anthem: we've seen it all before, and seen it all done better and with more feeling (no surface). This - even taking into account James' cold - is Manics-by-numbers; lackluster, uninspiring and something I thought they could never be: boring.

The band and the music I still love: James' raw talent, Nicky's glam-bam-thank ya mam wardrobe, little wickle Sean, the punch-drunk power of "Kevin Carter", the heartbreaking vivaciousness of "Roses In The Hospital", the crashing intensity of "Tsunami" - the passion and articulate beauty of the songs is not an issue, nor is the band's integrity and sincerity in question. What is, however, is the packaging. You too can be a doomed romantic suicide case for one evening only - let the Manics suffer for you by proxy as you clap along to "You Love Us". Perhaps I understand a little about why Richey left now. Mainstream adulation and its unavoidable dilution of everything that the band once stood for would indeed be hard to bear for someone so intensely and utterly involved as he apparently was.

But what the hell, I'm only a fan. So as I trudged out the hall three-quarters of the way through the set, leaving the band steadfastly trying to breakwater against the double irony of a crowd full of beered-up people singing "we only want to get drunk", I find myself mourning the passing of one of pop's most intense and visceral live spectacles, leaving it instead for those that now perhaps appreciate it more. Those people for whom the music is no more than a lifestyle accessory, and not a way of life.

You loved them, but they are not yours to cherish any more.

This Review was Originally featured  on the Alternative Music Magazine


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