These classic album in full nostalgia nights can be tricky, right? Not a problem for the Manic’s –who needs ATP when you’ve the last night of the Proms at the Albert Hall with a Welsh feather boa? As we walked in (a bit late) Nicky Wire, James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore and crew (it’s a loved up inter band night) were finishing the rock roar of Elvis Impersonator / Blackpool Pier, the opener of the Manic’s intelligent cinematic tour de force Everything Must Go, which is twenty and being played in full. A song about globalised nostalgia from 20 years ago – perfect.
The Albert’s dome’s so packed to its ornate bleachers, there’s no room for an echo, the album’s songs and crowd cheers coming with a new full flush (the band’s last retro futurist LP Futurology began with the kind of rhomboid square wave which suggested they’d finally mastered the synth and were looking forward). “My genius moment”, joshes pop genius Nicky Wire, “writing in Chateau de la Rouge Motte, when I realised Enola backwards was alone. Thank god the university education was worth it, eh”, before the sonic swoop into Enola/Alone. But there’s an emotional kick to the symphonic starburst of A Design for Life, where images of working class struggle (the same as I saw on the ’96 tour) played out on giant screens recalling the album’s triptych sleeve. It was their first without Richey Edwards.
Everything Must Go’s distorted solo from Bradfield and strings from keys just kept on climbing, Bradfield’s diction tonight as crisp as a folkie. “I just hope that you can forgive us”, he crooned, before nipping like a terrier and pirouetting like Chuck Berry in a tailspin. He’s alone for delicate acoustic Small Black Flowers, where you could hear a harp sound drop. Before they take a break before a hits section of punkier material such as the swooning Motorcycle Emptiness (everyone’s standing) and Walk Me to the Bridge, where Wire’s jagged bass line prowled like a werewolf (they were champing at the bit, back onstage in five minutes), The Girl Who Wanted to be God was given a mysterious sheen , Removables a scuzzed-up Nirvana feel. Whilst a confetti cannon firing off red, white and green streamers left the entire front row in standing room looking like Welsh mermaids, Bradfield was tigerish and Wire looked like a daddy long legs Beetlejuice with his face paint on a terrific night of unity.
Words by Stuart Gadd
Photos by Jeff Moh