I went to see the Manic Street Preachers at the Fillmore in San Francisco yesterday...seeing as they haven't been here in 10 years! That and being encouraged by the recent setlists (archived at Forever Delayed) being wonderful, with an eclectic mix from past and present releases, I knew it would be a show I could not afford to miss. Also, I had my heart set on meeting Nicky Wire - I bought him a bouquet of pink roses beforehand and attached a little note.
It wasn't that crowded when I got there, so I was able to sidle up right to the front ahead of time. I hadn't been too familiar with the opening act, Nico Vega, but after watching their live show - wow! Aja has such a powerful, raw presentation in her voice (and near-tribal dancing!), while Rich (the guitarist) and Dan (the drummer) madly tear away through instrumentation. One never knows what to expect from an opening act, and I thought I would be in the position of just waiting for it to end, but I really enjoyed them and will have to check out their studio / EP releases now!
It felt like such a long haul before the Manics came out, with the instruments and sound being tested, the Journal For Plague Lovers banner slowly rising up and replacing Nico Vega's glowing insignia on the back of the stage wall, and the expected accoutrements appeared; the Welsh flag, a row of tiger plushies, and Nicky's feather-boa-ed mic stand. Needless to say, I felt very, very nervous indeed! And then they came out.
I felt like my heart was going to leap out of me since not only was Nicky wearing that lovely sailor hat (as has been his custom lately), but a black suit as well. Genius! Oh, the music? Right then - they opened with "Motorcycle Emptiness", their usual opener lately, which was simply surreal to hear and see being played so close to me, as I suppose is always the case with any song you've listened to over and over again in your own time. James Dean Bradfield's voice sounded even more powerful in person, and seeing and hearing him up-close confirms that he truly is one of the unsung guitar greats - his hopping around stage, kicking out like a bit of a madman is fun to watch too! Sean Moore was hiding behind his drumkit (as usual), so I didn't get that great of a look at what he was up to. Nearly every poignant musical moment was punctuated by synchronized leaps and steps from Nicky!
They played twenty one songs (setlist at the bottom of the article), with my personal highlights of note being the tracks they played from Journal For Plague Lovers ("Peeled Apples" - the bassline is even more scrumptious live! - "Jackie Collins Existential Question Time", "This Joke Sport Severed", and "Me and Stephen Hawking"), opener ("Motorcycle Emptiness") and closer ("A Design For Life" - not really a favorite track before, but everything sounded better live), an unexpected acoustic "The Masses Against the Classes", and "You Love Us" (the track the audience seemed the most excited about). The crowd sung along to most of the songs, particularly as the night went on, and the band looked like they were having a lot of fun up there, sharing occasional anecdotes before songs, happy to be in the States after so long!
After it was over, I had to track down Nicky...their tour bus was right outside the front of the venue, so I waited there with my cousin (who was patient enough to come along with me and deal with my temporary insanity!). After awhile, my cousin said, "The guy in the sailor hat is over there.”, but I didn’t hear her. Then she had to say it again, and I stammered, “…WHAT?!", plowing through the crowd until there wasn't any more room to do so. I waited as others got their picture with him and had him sign items they'd brought along. I had my pink rose bouquet with me, and when I was right in front of him said, "These are for you, Nicky!". I think he said, and my cousin will back me up on this, "Oh those are lovely! Thanks - cheers, babe.” After that I have no idea what I said or did, getting my picture I'd brought along signed, and my photo taken with him (he put his hand on my back and shoulders - I thought I would tear apart into shreds!), and just saying, "Thank you so much!". I certainly hung around until he was gone, just looking at him in that sailor hat, be-jeweled eyes, and hearing him talk so close by was addling my head to a great extent. JDB and Sean had disappeared by this point, so I'd missed my chance with them, but Nicky was my top priority so - mission accomplished!
The Manics are a band that have so much history attached to them, and to feel like you're part of it just for a little while is a special thing indeed. It was a truly fantastic gig experience - if they pop up in your area, you must see them!
More photos here!:
1. Motorcycle Emptiness
2. No Surface All Feeling
3. Peeled Apples
4. Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
5. La Tristessa Durera
6. Jackie Collins Existential Question Time
7. Let Robeson Sing
9. Everything Must Go
10. This Joke Sport Severed
11. From Despair To Where
12. If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
13. This Is Yesterday (acoustic)
14. The Masses Against the Classes (acoustic)
15. Send Away The Tigers
16. You Stole The Sun
17. All Or Nothing (Small Faces cover) / Motown Junk
18. Me And Stephen Hawking
19. Little Baby Nothing
20. You Love Us
21. A Design For Life